The controversial bestseller
that dares to prove that
parenthood is dangerous!
Ellen Peck has spent more than three years re-
searching, writing and lecturing on the subject of
The Baby Trap. This breakthrough book examines
the effects of children on the emotional balances
The author of numerous articles on marriage,
sexuality, ecology, adolescent life (and even on
child raising) for such magazines as Pageant,
Cosmopolitan, Teen and Today's Health, she has
also appeared on countless nationwide television
Her syndicated young-adult advice column ap-
pears regularly in fifty top U.S. newspapers. Re-
cently Mrs. Peck aided in the founding of NON-
the National Organization for Non-Parents— a new
movement formed to implement the work of the
ZPG, Planned Parenthood, and other concerned
population and environment groups.
She and her husband — childless by choice - are
representative of a new life style, based on the
larger family of the community rather than the nu-
clear family. They travel extensively, work actively
with young people's groups and for political
causes and candidates.
The Baby Trap
PINNACLE BOOKS • NEW YORK CITY
THE BABY TRAP
Copyright © 1971, 1972 by Ellen Peck
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce
this book or portions thereof in any form.
A Pinnocle Book published by special arrangement
with Bernard Geis Associates, Inc.
Cover photograph of Ellen Peck by Jim Cox.
This newly revised and enlarged edition has been completely
reset in a type face designed for ease of reading. It was
printed from new plates ond contains the complete text of the
original, high-priced edition.
First printing, Moy, 1972.
Pnnled in the United Stales of America
PINNACLE BOOKS, 1 Id East 27 Street, New York, N.Y. 10016
1 . In the Time of Your Life, Live ... 9
2. BabyseH: The Manufacturers' Trap 26
3. The Media Trap 45
4. The Cultural "Babies are the Most Important
Things in Life" Trap 66
5. The Trap of Your Own Feelings 85
6. Husbands and Babies 105
7. What Happens to Girls Who Have Babies? 127
8. Escaping the Baby Trap: Birth Control and
Abortion 1 45
9. Beyond the Baby Trap: Coping with the Culture 169
10. Jobs, Careers, and a Few Other Things 193
11. Communicating 218
12. Lifestyles 239
I would really like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Carl
Meador of the Center for Studies of the Person, La
Jolla, California; Mrs. Virginia Satir, San Francisco;
Dr. T. David Jansen, Dr. Joe Bressler, and Mrs. Betty
Smith of the American Institute of Family Relations,
Los Angeles; Dr. Irvin Cushner and Dr. Sanford Wolf
of Baltimore; the Volunteer Welfare Services of Alle-
gheny County, Pennsylvania; the Clergy Counseling
Services of New York and Los Angeles; Mrs. Helen
Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan magazine; Mrs.
Bobbie Anker of the California Abortion Counseling
Service; the Planned Parenthood offices of New York,
Washington, and Baltimore; Mrs. Vivian Washington
of Baltimore; Mrs. Oscar Carlson, Merrill Lynch,
Pierce, Fenner, & Smith, Baltimore; the Child Welfare
League of America and the National Council on
Illegitimacy, New York; Mr. John R. Rague, Execu-
tive Director, Association for Voluntary Sterilization,
New York; the Free Clinic of Georgetown; Dr. David
Shaw, People's Free Clinic, Baltimore; Mr. Stewart
Ogilvy of the Campaign to Check the Population
Explosion, New York; Mr. Eugene Coan, Director of
Political Activity, Zero Population Growth, Los
Altos, California; the Population Crisis Committee,
Washington, D.C.; Mr. and Mrs. Lowell Dodge, Wash-
ington, D. C; Drs. Rustum and Delia Roy, State
College, Pennsylvania; Mr. Dan Thomas and Mr.
Mayer Kalichman, Baltimore; Marion Holmes, New
York; Pat Clarke, Baltimore; Joyce Jensen, San Fran-
cisco; as well as those lawyers and counselors inter-
viewed who preferred to remain unmentioned in this
I'd also like to thank the following couples, from
among those interviewed, for outstanding help: Jim
and Nancy Cox; Neil and Alice Bernstein; Larry and
Ellen Muir; Gail and Paul Blaisdell; Carole Ann and
Jack Tucker; Barbara and Tony Robson; Susan and
Clayton Root; Joe and Joyce Raffaelle; Joe and
Dianne Sullivan; Rex and Diane Roupe; Bob and
Most especially, thanks to Mr. Jay Allen, Los
Angeles; Mr. Nathaniel Branden, Director, Institute of
Biocentric Psychology, "Los Angeles, and his wife
Patrecia; Stephanie Mills and Earth Times magazine,
San Francisco; Mr. Arnold Zerwitz and Mr. Allen
Spector, Baltimore; and Drs. David and Helene
Zagier, Hospital Psychiqtrique de Malevoz, Monthey,
IN THE TIME
OF YOUR LIFE, LIVE
"In the time of your life, live-
so that in that wondrous time
you shall not add to the misery and sorrow
of the world,
but shall smile to the infinite delight
and mystery of it."
From The Time of Your Life by
Near the small French town of Saint-Denis-sur-Loire
is a certain chateau. It is not particularly distin-
guished—merely one among many of those collections
of architectural magnificence that make one imagine
that a thousand kings must have lived along the Loire
This chateau was built in the 1100's, "and has been
in our family since 1340," explained the elderly
countess, who was standing with us, overlooking a
moat rich with black fish and green water plants.
Beyond the moat, their lands sloped down toward the
Loire. A gardener was picking strawberries. It was not
too difficult to imagine that this might be, once more
or still, a day in the 14th century. Of course, the
physical structure of the buildings had changed; the
countess was explaining this . . .
I was listening to a retired French Army officer,
General de la Ferte, who was talking about Indo-
china, his friendship with Charles de Gaulle— and
about hunting. He has a collection of hundreds of
hunting books, one printed in medieval times and
giving instructions for the netting of game birds. They
used to net birds rather than aim at them with
weapons, he explained. 1 hadn't known that, I said.
But I was trying to overhear what the countess was
telling my husband . . .
There formerly were three drawbridges, not two,
she was explaining, and another turret— there. A
building to the far left replaced one destroyed during
the Napoleonic wars . . .
With each feudal conflict, and with each modern
war (the chateau itself had been occupied and dam-
aged during the Nazi invasion), there had been
changes, but only to the buildings. The heritage of
this estate was intact, as was the beauty of the lands.
And the experience of talking with the Comtesse de
Beaucorps, whom we had met the previous week in
Blois, and the chance to meet her other guests, was
actually a momentary sharing of that heritage. It was
an experience that we shall treasure for a very long
Other days were memorable that summer.
We had chateaubriand and champagne at the Tour
d'Argent in Paris, then abandoned the Fodor guide in
favor of the Peck plus Peugeot Plan— i.e., just driving.
We listened to records in a dusty Dijon cafe and to a
folk singer in a park by Lake Geneva. We slept for
several nights in a small, out-of-the-way chalet that
looked up— and down— at glaciers, mountains, water-
falls the height of mountains.
We picnicked on truffle-spiced ham, fruit, brioches,
and ice-cold champagne by a roadside in the south of
France. We tasted the black Chambertin wine in a
cave of the Burgundy country. We toured the oldest
hospital in the world that still receives patients (the
nurses still wear medieval dress; though the doctors, I
think, use modern methods). We saw the Musee
Picasso at Cap d'Antibes, along the French Riviera.
The night of our fifth anniversary we were in
Liechtenstein and the next night in a castle still
complete with its Louis Quinze furnishings.
Once, while hiking along a high trail in the Bernese
Oberland, we exchanged tentative German words
with a shepherd and shared raclettes with him as we
watched a sunset so beautiful that it was difficult to
find any words to say in any language.
We wandered through the private art galleries of
several cities: Lucerne, Paris, Geneva, Barbizon. We
climbed two or three mountains. We met Marc
And, once we wandered onto a street fair in Berne.
Just down from the mountains of Switzerland, we
parked our Peugeot facing the Bernese clock tower.
"Clock tower," though, fails completely to describe
what we saw. It more resembled the sun, this clock-
huge, gold, hypnotic, seeming to sit low, just a story
above the street, surrounded by the signs of the stars
and the planets. It was not just a clock that told the
time of day. It seemed quite as capable of inspiring
devotion and superstition as the pale, real sun that
was then setting behind the hills behind the town.
Flags were waving along the arcaded street— the
Swiss national flag; the bear that is the symbol of
Berne; various coats of arms. The street was crowded,
but there were few cars. It was easy to sense a certain
timelessness about this scene, too. After all, Bill was
saying to me, these stone arcades had housed shops
for perhaps half of European history.
Groups of young people were approaching the
street from all directions from as far away as you
could see: a girl in white; a girl in black; a group of
boys in sweatshirts; a long-legged blonde in leder-
hosen; four on motorbikes; an older couple walking
along, the boy playing a guitar, the girl singing; a girl
with too much make-up; a girl with too few clothes,
even for the warm night; two young men with a girl
in lavender jumpsuit sitting in a semicircle on the
street . . .
We walked with the crowd's movement towards a
square facing the cathedral, carved in intricate stone
filigree against the sky, as the sounds began. We
passed a girl on a platform; she was singing, in
French, "Who has seen the wind?" but her voice was
lost because not far away, just facing the lighted
cathedral, a larger platform held a group in Mick
Jagger sweatshirts and with louder voices. After they
finished a French rock song, they blasted into
"Honky Tonk Woman," with words this time in
German. And Bill went crazy with his camera for a
Then he and I and another couple near us began to
dance; and the four of us were laughing as we danced,
ending the number with hands on each others' shoul-
ders. As the music dissolved into "Satisfaction," we
walked on, losing touch. It had not mattered that we
hadn't spoken each others' languages; we had simply
shared the music that was now growing louder,
drowning out the voice of a girl in black who
wandered aimlessly past, carrying something and
chanting "je t'aime" to no one in particular. There
was more dancing.
We walked on, then walked back. "Ah can't get no
sat-is-fac-tion," another group was singing, this time
in English. A flat-chested girl with sequined eye
make-up and shirt unbuttoned to the waist passed us,
trailed by about five rural-looking boys in work
shirts. She suddenly turned to one, took his face in
her hands, kissed him hard, then turned around
again— and the parade continued.
There were food stands: sausages, chickens, bread,
mustard, wine. But no one was around them. There
seemed to be no need of food, nor of drinking or
smoking— except for those three sitting on the street,
who may have been on drugs. But there was no need.
In this summer air, heavy with flags, the music was
We were back at the cathedral and the clock tower.
The street lights had come on, and the waving of the
flags in and out of the light, added a visual dimension
to the music of another group that had set up under
an arcade, a group which was now singing, in French,
"The Twelfth of Never," which it was. Although it
was the thirteenth of June, or had been that day, it
was the twelfth of Never that night in Berne as a
10th-century cathedral looked down on the 20th-cen-
tury young of its country on those cobbled, throb-
bing streets, not quite believing what it saw.
The memory of that night is another that we are
glad to have.
And the point is, we have those memories.
The point is, we were there, Bill and I. That summer
of 1970, we were sampling things that were going on
in the world that we might never have known of.
In the six years we've been married, we have gone
not only to different countries but to different parts
of our own country and city, because we want to
glimpse a little of the world, to see some of the forces
that have shaped it, are shaping it.
It is part, I think, of a kind of unspoken theory of
marriage that we have. Marriage is not to resign from
living, but to begin to live. Marriage should not signal
a "settling down," but a waking up. Marriage is rather
like a growing plant that should be enriched, fed,
with stimulating experiences from outside sources; if
it is not, it will shrivel into boredom and routine. We
have not been bored.
Yes, you may be saying, all that is fine, but you
But probably no more than you have.
The first time we went to Europe, our income just
barely hit the five-figure mark. Bill and I are both
writers, and writers are seldom rich. We have made,
though, several significant decisions about money and
about life that allow us to live the way we do. We
prefer not to spend money on possessions and status
gadgetry, but rather on experiences and sensations.
And we do not have children.
We do not want children.
I think that many couples do not want children.
They want something; perhaps they define that
"something" as a child. But that may not be what is
wanted at all. And this fact may become obvious only
some time after the decision to have children is made,
after the unparalleled complexities of child-raising
(truly, no other task is so difficult to do well, in this
society at least) begin to make their demands on a
couple, to take their toll from a marriage. Many
children become "unwanted" long after birth, as their
parents begin to resent the requirements of parent-
hood, to regret lost opportunities for freedom and for
time alone. There are wives who live for the summer
weeks when the children visit relatives or go to
summer camp. There are husbands who seek to
escape the realities of fatherhood by avoiding their
homes, or who long for the time when their children
will be grown. There are motels that advertise "The
family that plays apart stays together" and provide
separate activities and even separate residences for
children and parents. And these motels are usually
booked weeks and months in advance.
What most couples really want is to live life as fully
and deeply as possible. That is what we want, any-
way. And we do not feel that we can do this and still
raise a family. A family would provide its own kind
of change and experience, true— but not the kind we
want. It would be, when you get right down to it, a
repetition of experience— a repetition of the child-
I could never justify it.
I'm grown up, and I want my life now, thank you.
My adult life. And I want to live that adult life— di-
rectly. I don't care to live a second childhood —
I don't want to learn the alphabet again, and learn
about creative playthings, toilet training, and play-
ground etiquette again. I went through that once. We
all did. Now, I would like some different experiences.
I want the Riviera in January. And please give me the
Berne street festivals, and anniversaries in Liechten-
stein, and the chance to step back six centuries by-
walking onto the grounds of a castle near Saint-Denis-
And you cannot count on having those experi-
ences—we couldn't, anyway-with children. Usually,
there is a choice to be made. Take your pick. One or
the other. Housework and children— or the glamour,
involvement and excitement of a free life.
Now I'm aware that some are exempt from that
Sophia Loren is an obvious example; she has a child,
and her life does not lack glamour and freedom. And
there's Dr. Helene Zagier, of Monthey, Switzerland,
whose son graduated from Oxford (with two degrees)
at age sixteen, and whose daughter is equally tal-
ented. The Zagiers do not miss much in life. They run
a university; they hike across glaciers; and they take, I
believe, more vacations than Bill and 1 do. And
there's a very pretty blonde named Pamela who
recently married and became pregnant, after spending
years alone with an African tribe, wandering alone
into the South American jungles, exploring the world
But this doesn't have very much to do with you or
me and our men.
For most of us, the addition of children means the
subtraction of something else from life. If Bill and I
had children, we would not have been in Berne,
Switzerland, the night of June 13, 1970. I would have
been at home, straightening the dining room and
changing diapers. Bill would have been picking up the
kitchen and loading the dishwasher before leaving for
a neighborhood Cub Scout meeting.
You see, for most people (certainly for us) simple
resources like time, energy, and money are limited.
Bill and I could not be simultaneously involved in
projects we believe in, personal plans that delight us,
and still raise children. We have chosen to skip the
children. And I believe that has been the right
We have been married, and we've been happy, for
six years. Any marriage could end, of course; but I
don't think ours will. There may be better marriages
around; but I haven't seen many. And, in my opinion,
the fact that we haven't been burdened with babies
has quite a lot to do with this success.
In the course of writing this book, I've talked to
women of many ages, with children and without. The
girls I've talked to who don't have children are,
almost without exception, prettier, more conversa-
tional, more aware, more alive, more exciting, more
satisfied. They have, almost without exception, better
marriages and happier husbands than those wives who
do have children.
The fact that I do not intend to mention the
"exceptions"— the married couples with children who
are truly happy— is reflective of my personal prej-
udice. But it is also an attempt to balance the total
cultural picture you are given. Looking at the over-
blown, enticing (and misleading) motherhood images
in the Ladies' Home Journal and elsewhere in the
culture, I feel no overwhelming obligation to be
objective. They aren't. Has the Ladies' Home Journal
ever shown a fat, wrinkled, obviously bitchy mother
on their cover? No one will deny such mothers exist,
but do they show them?
Well, nobody's denying happy families exist either,
but I'm simply not going to show them. There is little
point in redundancy. 1 am, instead, going to empha-
size what is not shown in other sources: the problems
of having children; and the unique values to the
We who have chosen to be childless all have our
own reasons. Mine are somewhat different from those
of Karen Kramer in New York, Diane Roupe of Des
Moines, Ellen Muir of Seattle, Lila Prager, who lives
in Houston, and my friend Gail Blaisdell here in
Baltimore. My reasons are almost totally opposite
from those of Stephanie Mills of San Francisco.
The two usual reasons for voluntary childlessness
1) an awareness of ecology and the problem of
the population explosion
2) a desire for wider personal experiences
Couples usually make their decision for one of
those reasons, then use the other as a rationalization.
I, for example, always vaguely felt that children
would keep me from living the way I want to. Bill
was in agreement. It was a matter of simple personal
preference for wider living. But more and more I
began to draw on the frightening state of the world
and the facts about the population explosion, in
order to justify my decision to people.
It worked the other way for Stephanie Mills, a
beautiful San Francisco girl whose decision not to
have children has become something of a cause
celebre. Stephanie's concern, first expressed in her
valedictory speech from Mills College, was ecological,
planetary. ("What kind of world would my children
face?" she asked in that speech; "A world not very
clean, not very pretty, not very nice.") Later, she
rationalized— or realized— "It's very pleasant not to
have children. You're free to devote yourself to other
things. Your life is far more completely your own."
But whatever our reasons, there are many who
approve our point of view. There are many profes-
sional people (Eda LeShan, Margaret Mead, Paul
Ehrlich, Isaac Asimov, to name a few) who believe
that motherhood should be less encouraged.
Isaac Asimov made a very interesting statement.
"Babies are the enemies of the human race," he said
in 1969, in an interview with Boston magazine. He
doesn't hate children; it's just that there are too many
of them. And they grow up to pollute, despoil,
defoliate, and crowd the earth.
The earth's population, in fact, may already be so
large (3.5 billion) that even assuming a slowdown in
the birth rate, we will have twice as many people in
thirty years. The scientific consensus is that that
doubling will bring us to a "crash point," beyond
which the earth's systems can no longer cleanse
Think about it. Twice as many people: half as much
land to grow food for each of us. Twice as many
people: half as many trees per person to put oxygen
into the air. Even if life under such circumstances is
possible at all, it will not be very pleasant.
Probably you've heard this already. There has been
some concern bordering on alarm in recent maga-
zines, for example, and on the 6:30 news. And yet, at
some point, you're probably going to want to have a
Why? Because you're a female and the desire to
reproduce is innately feminine? No. That's strictly a
myth. In fact, the more you want children, the less
feminine you may be. Compulsiveness can have a
point to prove, as in the case of a nymphomaniac
who is as incapable of staying out of bed as she is of
enjoying being in it.
Some would disagree. Some would insist that the
yen for young is, indeed, instinctive, that the mere
existence of the means of reproduction creates within
the woman the desire for children and even imposes a
kind of obligation to bear children, since not to do so
would be a denial of a natural function.
But is there such a thing as an inborn desire to bear
children? To argue so, since childbearing is the end
result of sex activity, would be to assume a knowl-
edge of cause-and-effect that probably did not exist
in the earliest cultures. There are cultures even today,
as Ashley Montagu points out, in which the connec-
tion between intercourse and childbearing is not
known. And since the one precedes the other, it
would seem that the basic human desire operating is
sexual rather than reproductive. Reproduction is
simply the more or less inevitable result of sexual
activity. That the reproductive function was accepted
universally is certain; that it was desired universally
is less certain.
Sure, reproduction was "natural," inasmuch as it
was universal and inevitable. It was obviously in-
tended by Nature, but by a Nature that never foresaw
the extent to which Man would pre-empt Her control
over life and death by weapons, medicine, indus-
And as our civilizations have advanced, moving
farther from Nature on the evolutionary trail from
forests into cities, the need for reproduction has
certainly lessened. Our society is urban, and it is
overpopulated. In overpopulated species other than
the human, Nature responds by depressing the mating
drive— and the rate of reproduction. But Nature isn't
working that way for us. Simple but potent cultural
factors that urge reproduction give Nature no such
But for girls who can see beyond these surface
cultural lures, civilized society offers life choices
other than the option of childbearing. And that is
how childbearing should be regarded today: as an
option— and not a very compelling one.
Childbearing seems compelling for reasons that have
nothing to do with instinct. The word "instinct" is
commonly misused. Two examples out of many:
there are Catholics who "instinctively" genuflect
when passing an altar, men who "instinctively" rise
when a woman enters a room. Both practices are
obviously learned behaviors, strongly reinforced— as
the desire for offspring is a learned desire, strongly
In the human being, desire exists in the mind, as do
the general practices of habit. And, as Ashley Mon-
tagu demonstrates during the pages of Man in Process,
the mind is a product of culture.
If the desire to reproduce resulted from an active,
operating instinct, no girl would be free from it. (But
many are— and the number who are no longer consti-
tutes an insignificant minority.) The desire to bear
children results instead from learning. Within our
culture, from earliest baby-girlhood, you learn that
you should want children. And you learn from many
Aunt Helen teaches you. She gives you a baby doll,
saying, "You'll take such good care of her. And
someday you'll grow up and have your own baby.
You'll be such a good mother." (Does Aunt Helen
ever see you playing hopscotch with Johnny, the boy
next door, and say, "Oh, you get along so well with
boys! Someday you'll be such a good wife."?) No;
the emphasis is always on the "mother" role.
Meanwhile, is Johnny being similarly told and
taught "Someday you'll be such a good father?" No.
Thus, far more women than men desire babies. This
strongly supports the idea that the desire for off-
spring is learned; babies play a larger part in a
woman's learned role.
That cuddly doll is the first bait in the baby trap.
Later on, as you begin to read, and as you become a
consumer, there are other lures.
There are the ads: one glorious Clairol mother,
many gleaming children; mother in mink cavorting
through snow with children; mother skillfully apply-
ing band-aid to her six-year-old's knee; mother and
daughter doing laundry together with Ivory Snow.
The baby trap is also the picture feature on Mr. and
Mrs. Successful New York, with their three or four
children. It's the trap of the glossy situation TV
series, where the doll-like mother manages home and
family with freedom and expertise. It's the trap of
the magazines, with their incessant articles on the
A Former Governor's Wife: My 'Miracle' Preg-
nancy at 41
How Children Can Help Your Marriage
Special Beauty Section—the Young Mother
Miracle Babies— Beautiful Parents
I want to tell you about this trap, not because I see
babies as the enemies of the human race, really, but
because I see babies as the enemies of you.
The people who set the "trap" never tell you what's
apt to happen to you after that baby is born. They
never tell you that many men find themselves less
attracted to their wives after the physical changes of
pregnancy and childbirth. They never tell you that
there may be a correlation between fatherhood and
infidelity. They never tell you that, rather than
keeping a marriage together, children can often very
quickly drive it apart. (In the magazines, I found a
dozen or more case histories of marriages "saved" by
the birth of a baby. In divorce lawyers' offices in a
total of four cities, I found more than fifty case
histories of husbands who had filed for divorce during
their wives' pregnancies or immediately afterwards.)
The people who set the trap never tell you that if
you're not real careful you'll be cheated out of
fifteen years of young life and intense experiences
that can never be yours again.
I don't want you to wake up a dozen years from
now and realize that your days are built on routine,
that your life consists of living vicariously through
your children, that you've lost your zest for new
experiences— and quite possibly your husband's inter-
est as well.
And yet, these are just a few consequences of the
I know, because I've seen them happen to friends of
And it doesn't always take fifteen years to happen.
It can happen in five years.
Yes, the media hold up those models of serene and
gleaming pregnancy. And you, seeing them, imagine
yourself as a pretty, happy mother-to-be, basking in
attention and daydreaming of glories to come.
It doesn't always work that way.
It didn't with a friend of mine named Frances. She
seemed more withdrawn and distant everytime I
dropped by her off-campus apartment between
classes at Northwestern. "I feel miserable so much of
the time," she said one morning, as we were having
coffee on a kitchen table cluttered with shower gifts
(toys, terry cloth rompers, blankets, bottle warmers, a
little set of "textures" for the baby to touch, colorful
mobiles, toddler towels with ducks on them); and
there didn't seem to be any reason for this malaise
that her obstetrician could find.
As I said, "Well, Fran, it will all be over in another
month; you'll forget about these aches and pains once
you have the baby," it occurred to me that I wasn't
really sure if what I was saying was true at all. You
can forget aches and pains, once they're over, if they
were only aches and pains.
But I thought something else was involved. Fran
seemed depressed, not ill. She just seemed a different
person from the girl who had sat with Bob in the
coffee shop every morning, going over his acting
assignment with him, teasing him about having to
repeat a scene with Miss Krause, chatting about
having seen Josh White at the Gate of Horn the night
(some time later, an obstetrician I interviewed
explained, "When pregnant women come to me with
severe physical distress, I often do something close to
I wasn't quite wise enough to figure out, at that
time, that Fran and Bob were having trouble; they
had been so in love the year before that that possibil-
ity just didn't occur to me. But I did know that
something seemed wrong. And I did know 1 didn't
envy Fran, at all.
Nor do I envy what has happened to her marriage
since the birth of their child.
1 married several years later. And watched not just
Fran, but all the girls I'd known in school, one by
one, start their families. I went to lots of showers and
christenings. And I held a lot of hands as girlfriends
started to have husband trouble.
It occurred to me that I wasn't having the problems
they complained of. And I wondered why.
I don't think it was because Bill and I were any
more in love when we got married than, say, Fran and
Bob were. I think just about everybody is equally
deeply and totally in love at that point.
And I don't think I'm any cleverer than my girl-
I think it's because I haven't burdened the relation-
ship Bill and I have with third parties who would
distract our attention from each other and restrict us
from doing, often, what we feel like doing.
That idea got some reinforcement from another girl
1 know. Lori is a friend of mine who lives in Chicago.
For a while, we were single girls together working in
the offices of the same insurance company on LaSalle
Lori is kind of a wild girl. She goes to more parties
in a month than I did the entire time I was in
Chicago. She's not exactly gorgeous— well, yes, she is,
come to think of it. She's bright, blonde, and magnet-
ic to the point where the girl who had the desk next
to Lori never would let her husband (who worked in
the same building) come down to see our offices.
Lori is thirty and looks eighteen. She's fickle,
irresponsible, and inclined to fly off to the Azores for
weekends, not, usually, alone. She dates married men,
because most of the men she knows are married.
The last time I saw her I asked if most of the
married men who took her out had children. Her
answer was immediate.
"Are you kidding? All of them. In fact, when they
pull out the kids' pictures at a cocktail party, I know
they want to get serious for the evening. Lots of
times it's an unmistakable signal. Almost code for,
'Look, I'm married, honey, I won't fool you, but it's
just because of these kids; my wife means nothing to
"Sure, it's the guys with kids," she continued; "the
ones who don't have kids still like their wives."
The ones who don't have kids still like their wives.
There are exceptions, I'm sure. But, looking around
at our acquaintances in Baltimore, the generalization
seems true. Phil, a friend of ours who has three
children, doesn't accept our dinner invitations when
his wife takes the children to visit her parents on the
Eastern Shore. Phil's busy; he needs to catch up on
office work while his wife is away.
A girl I know, a buyer for a downtown department
store, is part of that "office work."
But there's another husband who practically waits
at our house from the time he takes his wife to the
airport until it's time to meet her plane back. This
couple has been married for six years. They have no
And, when I've gone to different cities for TV
shows or speaking dates, I've found Lori's little
theory about 1000% right.
The men I meet who don't have children talk about
The men who have kids ask me out.
Well, you probably encourage them," one wife said
All right. For the sake of argument I'll accept that
charge for a moment. But it's completely beside the
point. The world is filled with encouraging females.
The point is: how does your husband react to them?
One example, out of many I could give: waiting to
check into a busy New Orleans hotel a few years
back, I remember talking to a group of computer
programmers who were checking out. Most were busy
comparing notes on the "Loris" they'd dated while
they were in town. One man wasn't. This man, whose
name was John Emmons as I recall, talked to me
instead about his wife. They'd been married ten years
ago; she was bright and talented, and he showed me
some pictures of her in community theater produc-
tions. They had no children. He was eager to get
home to her; in fact, it was at his insistence that the
group was taking a night flight back to Houston
instead of staying over another day. John Emmons
hadn't gone to Lucky Pierre's to get a girl to take to
Bourbon Street. He'd gone out— to Preservation Hall
and a few other places— alone, and called his wife
afterwards to tell her about it.
Of course the other men had called home too. One
of them was laughing heartily about the fact that he'd
had a girl in his room when he called home to see
how the kids were.
Lots of marriage counselors have stated Lori's idea,
in more sophisticated language.
"Sure, infidelity can be provoked by children,
insofar as infidelity can be an attempted escape from
a marital situation that makes a man feel trapped,"
Virginia Satir told me. And in The Mirages of Marri-
age by William Lederer and Dr. Don Jackson, I ran
across a sweeping, startling statement: "We have
never observed a generally constant collaborative
union between spouses during the period when they
were raising children."
Well, sure, you may say, but they're marriage
counselors, aren't they? They only see the unhappy
marriages, the ones that fail. (Ditto for Lori: she's a
marriage therapist of sorts— dates mainly unhappy
And yet, there are those husbands; there are those
Maybe your own case wouldn't work that way.
Maybe you could go through pregnancy without
getting pained and depressed. Maybe you wouldn't
have to deny yourself all the other things in life.
Maybe your husband wouldn't lose interest in you if
you had children. Maybe he wouldn't try to date Lori
at his office or cuddle with me when we happen to be
on the same flight to Chicago.
And maybe you could be an exception to the
Lederer-Jackson experience and have a harmonious
marriage with children.
But I wouldn't guarantee it.
And I think that the way my husband and I are
living our life is better. In any case, it's worth pausing
to think it over, isn't it— pausing at least long enough
to read this book?
THE MANUFACTURERS ' TRAP
"Enfamil mothers are usually smarter."
"A cradlette is more than just an infant seat . .
"Jolly Jumper will amuse your child for hours
"Get your baby needs from Baby News!"
Many industries are rooted in the population explo-
sion: utilities, furniture, clothing. And many of these
industries see an expanding population as a good
thing. We're only beginning to see that there can be
diseconomies to very large-scale production. We're
only beginning to listen to Emerson Foote, chairman
of a major New York advertising agency, who quietly
insists, "Whatever your cause, it's a lost cause without
population control." The way most producers of
goods and services still see it, the only profit factor
that outweighs even a rising level of prosperity is an
expanding market, an increasing population.
Thus, businesses and most advertisers cooperate in
Babysell: presenting idealized mother-baby images in
order to sell their products. The phenomenon is not
restricted to toymakers. Baltimore Gas & Electric has
used mother-and-baby to push such products as auto-
matic icemakers. One promoter, speaking to business-
men via Advertising and Sales Promotion magazine,
offers "thousands of stock baby photos to sell your
product." Any product. (Write Douglas Mack in Daly
City, California, if you're interested.)
But it is, specifically, the makers of baby food,
baby formulas, baby furniture, toys and trucks, float-
ees and klatter-balls, lotions and diapers who eagerly
scan maternity lists at hospitals, on occasion bribe
gynecologists' receptionists to find out who is expect-
ing, and wish to see you step into a new role— that of
mother— in order to keep their profit margins healthy.
The profits of the klatter-ball companies would be
gravely threatened if you found something better to
do with your life.
"Favorable birth trends" is the way these manufac-
turers refer to the population explosion. A spec sheet
on Gerber products, for example, lists annual reve-
nues of about $200 million for 1969 and looks for
"favorable birth trends" that would cause that figure
to rise in the following years. "Sales of baby products
should be aided by some advance in the birth rate,"
reads a similar Standard & Poors' for Johnson &
And Associated Baby Services clearly does not care
much about the population crush— or about you,
either— so long as you reproduce yourself. This enter-
prising outfit (including Lullaby Diaper Service, Tidy
Didy, Nu Dy-Per) had net sales of over $22 million
last year and is looking forward to an even more
pregnant profit picture, if you cooperate.
"Associated Baby Services Hails Birth of More
Potential Customers," begins an article in an invest-
or's newswire. "Baby births last year increased for the
first time since 1960 and a growing number of gals
will be arriving at marriage age in the Seventies: This
is good news for Associated Baby Services, Inc.,
which gets 57% of its sales and an even chubbier 80%
of pre-tax profits from diaper services."
End of quote.
Sure. Have a baby. They want you to. That would
be "good news" for them, and they encourage you
through magazine ads 'n articles. They've even got a
magazine of their own called Baby Talk, in which lots
of makers-of-baby-things advertise. A chattily helpful
little magazine. Should help you spend lots more than
the $4.75 weekly you'd have to toss to the Tidy Didy
Let's listen to somebody else talk about you:
"We believe the toy industry offers attraction for
growth-minded investors," states another stock re-
lease. "Domestic toy revenues at the manufacturing
level rose from $838 million to $2050 million . . .
more favorable demographics" (that's you, baby!)
"should provide the base for continued growth . . ."
An enterprising group called Gift-Pax has an act
that's hard to follow. They present contributing
manufacturers' products to a new mother immediate-
ly after delivery.
"The moment her baby arrives, Gift-Pax 'brands'
them for you, for years ahead," boasts Gift-Pax in an
ad to manufacturers. "Then, there's the timing," the
ad goes on, "psychologically perfect for making your
Now, if I were a new mother and knew about that
ad, I would feel exactly like a pawn in some profit
game. But then, relatively few copies of Advertising
Age float through maternity wards. Baby Talk is
more apt to be spoken there.
Photography gets into the act, too.
"Because young children are the subjects of more
than half of all the photographs taken, the projected
increase in births has favorable implications for the
sale of photographic film," said a stock market
analyst, speaking at UCLA. (One article gave the
average figure of $76 as what's spent on photos of a
family's newborn. A Kodak man said he thought it
would run "closer to a hundred.")
Equitable Life Assurance Society, not too long ago,
featured a program of insurance "for a family" to
meet "projected future needs." And, just to make
sure there's no doubt about what that means, and as a
come-on to help make those projected future needs
occur in the near future, an Equitable ad shows a gal
standing regally, beside a harp (!), one hand protec-
tively over her expanding stomach.
Naturally, Equitable would prefer to insure "fam-
ilies" rather than "couples." Why? Because the premi-
ums are higher.
Cosmetics play a role in the Motherhood Come-On,
too. These products, after all, sell youth. And what
better way to demonstrate a product's youth poten-
tial than by showing a user of that product— with
children? This was the approach of a certain Clairol
commercial. It began with a lyric guitar strain, and a
She walks barefoot through the meadow
Early in the morning . . . oh, she lets her
Hair down when the sun comes up . . .
and the camera shows this white-chiffon-coated
cookie with waist-length Clairol hair. Barefoot, yes.
Hair down, yes. Floating through the meadow in slow
motion, and— oh, yes, to let all the mothers know
that they too can look this way— she is suddenly
surrounded by gleaming children. (The girl, of course,
is a model who wouldn't dream of increasing her
waistline by drinking more than a half glass of apricot
juice at one time, let alone becoming pregnant.)
The point is, you see these things advertised (insur-
ance, cosmetics, cameras, cereal) and you also see
And you may be tempted to imagine yourself in
those ads. You see yourself standing by that harp in
that tasteful apartment, serenely pregnant. You pro-
ject yourself into the Tang commercial that has a
husband bringing his expectant wife breakfast (well,
Tang, anyway) in bed. You see the floating Clairol
figure as the sort of ethereal and unconfined and
joyful mother you would be.
It doesn't always work that way. Take that Clairol
commercial, for instance. Now, just how many moth-
ers do you know who go skimming over meadows
with a sense of abandon?
You may imagine you and your husband drawn
close around a new baby, working together towards a
future for the three of you. It just might not be that
way. Because Babysell is so strong, there's apt to be
more work, and less future, than you might imagine.
We haven't even begun to point out the things you
would, if pregnant, be urged to buy for Baby.
Baby furniture is a big item, for example. "You
can't get by for less than five big ones," a salesman
smiled warmly at me, holding up five fingers. "You
see, just the crib and bureau will run close to $100.
Then there's the bassinet, the bathinette, the layette,
the playpen, the stroller . . ."
Yes, I suppose you would need most of that . . .
Magazines and how-to-raise-your-baby books (some
of which are partially underwritten by manufac-
turers) fall right in line. Urging you to be a successful
mother, the author of a book by that name describes
needed furniture. "Your new baby is tiny," she says,
"but his furniture is going to be enormous. Besides,
all too soon, he'll need a high chair, a potty chair, a
play table . . . and what about the mass of stuff that
will accumulate this year and next . . . toy chest? . . .
rocking chair? . . . rocking horse? . . . second crib? . . .
And here are tome suggestions from the Spring,
1970 Apartment Living:
"Here are some baby basics to make the going
great! The dressing table . . . has a thick foam pad
. . . molded plastic drawers, an attached diaper
pail, and an added advantage: it slims down to
half its size when necessary. Priced at $29 from
Peterson Baby Products. The crib/play yard is
another good buy for your newest tenant . . .
Then there's a dual-purpose unit: it quickly heats
Baby's bottle and shuts off automatically, or it
turns into a mini-vaporizer with its vaporizer top.
Priced at $4.25 ... A cradlette is more than
another infant seat. This one has a position for
rocking, in addition to adjustable positions every
ten degrees . . . priced at $10.00 . . ."
Then there's a "baby dish that heats the food and
shuts off automatically. The set, including training
cup, cold dish, and two spoons, is priced at $16 . . ."
These are supposedly baby basics, remember.
Now of course babies can be raised without all that.
Have you ever seen it happen, though? I haven't. I've
never seen a home where there's a small child without
seeing roomfuls of toys. Whether from Georg Jensen
or door-to-door hucksters, the toys are there. Pres-
sured by the manufacturers, by relatives and neigh-
bors, by the whole society, really, most people will
succumb and buy everything, even against their better
judgment, so as not to get a strange look from a
neighbor or explain to grandma why Junior is sleep-
ing in a dresser drawer. And, face it. If a wife has
identified with the Babysell "image" ads, she's going
to respond well to the specific ads, in the first place.
She's going to want that cradlette.
A Chicago stock broker, in urging Bill to buy Mattel
stock a few years ago, pointed out that, "Parents
would sooner quit the golf club or give up dinner
rather than cut back on toys for the kids; you can't
lose with this stock. Every parent wants his kid to
have everything." Of course, there may be another
factor involved in all the toy buying: maybe mothers
hope that this will finally be the toy that keeps junior
occupied, quiet, out of her hair! (A popular line of
toys includes, "Busy Box," "Busy Bath," "Busy
And although we'll be talking later about the effects
children can have on husbands, it might be worth
pointing out right now that a man can get tired of the
economic strain caused by all these Ingenious Essen-
tials the manufacturers dream up for his wife to buy.
I was finding out about all these baby products in
magazines, by the way, because, after talking to the
baby-furniture salesman in a Baltimore department
store, I decided I'd prefer thumbing through mag-
azines to wandering through aisles. That way, I
wouldn't have to dash the presumptions of super-
eager salespeople. But, in San Francisco some weeks
later, on my way to Ghirardelli Square, I passed a
store called Baby News. And I had a notebook in my
purse. And I thought, "Oh, why not?"
So I checked it out.
I was feeling happy to the point of volatility, by the
way: I'd like to make that very clear. It was early
May. My husband was flying in and would meet me at
my hotel within a few hours; we had reservations that
night at our favorite San Francisco restaurant, the
Charles on O'Farrell Street; and I was going to buy
something spectacular to wear. I was open-minded to
the point of thinking, "Well, maybe I'll see some
happy parents and kiddies shopping here and blow
my theory, who knows? How could anyone con-
ceivably be unhappy living in San Francisco on a day
The first thing I saw in the store was hanging from
the ceiling: a metal chain, about six feet long,
connecting halfway down to a hard rubber bar, which
was attached in turn to a white metal rod, from
which were suspended cords, snap-on clamps, and
pigtail screws which enclosed a huge doll in a harness.
A little girl was being shown this doll ex machina by
her mother, and the little girl was crying and saying,
"Mommy, the baby's hanging, they're hanging the
baby," and the mother was saying, "No, that's a Jolly
Jumper, and it's just what Annie needs . . . it's going
to teach Annie to walk while you and Mommy do the
housework. . . ."
Well, I whipped past that little drama to the rack of
cheery little tennis dresses (about $7.50 each, and
they were cute) but in front of the rack I heard a
man asking his wife, "But does she really need this,
Helen?" and I walked away without hearing the
answer, because I did not want to hear any husband-
I retreated to the bikini racks. They have bikinis, it
looked like, for newborns. Oh well, why not? And
there were bathing caps, shorts and short sets, jackets,
bibs, rompers, leotards, sandals, desert boots, slipper-
ette stretch slippers, belts, jewelry and harem paja-
mas. And a display of "Pemay" clothes with the
slogan, "Clothes for Infants and Toddlers Designed
Expressly for Adults."
And the couple I'd seen at the tennis dresses were
now at that display, and the man was saying, "But,
Helen ..." and I backed off from them again, to the
mobiles of sty ro foam animals, and beyond that, to
the books, where two mothers, each with a toddler
and each pregnant, were talking about The Big Gold-
en Book of Poetry. One mother was saying to the
other, "It's fun, such fun to read these little poems
again. Patty made me read 'The Best Game the Fairies
Play' five times last night . . ." (Was this woman's
husband looking on indulgently during that time— like
in the ads?)
And I kept walking back, to a display of garden
tools, where a mother was handing her small son a
plastic lawn mower and saying, "Hey, how'd'ya like
this, Davey, hmm?" and Davey was starting to fuss,
and the mother said, "Oh, Davey, you want to be
able to use these when Daddy does the real gardening,
don't you?" And Davey took the toy mower and ran
it straight into a display of toy hoes and then he
really started to fuss.
And, leaving that, I found a stairway leading to The
Hair Fair. Peanuts characters advertised it on posters
lining the stairs— Lucy saying, "Nobody knows but
my Hair Fair," and Snoopy suggesting, "Protest
against the rising tide of homemade haircuts; visit
I did. It was cutely canopied, red-and-white striped.
Children were sitting on elephants, horses, and fire
trucks. Only one child was quiet; she had the same
bright red hair and freckles as "Helen" of the couple
I'd seen downstairs. I glanced around, surprised at the
number of mothers who had their little boys here;
took in the prices (shampoo and set $4.50); heard the
lady who runs the place say, "Well, Mrs. Gibbs, I'm
afraid if he doesn't want to sit on the horse, maybe
we shouldn't insist . . ." and went back to the
The music on the main level was being interrupted
for an announcement. (Do they announce things like
this all the time?) "Mrs. So-and-so of Texas," a hearty
voice said, "has just had a child. Mother and baby are
doing fine. And this is not unusual, except that this is
her 24th child. Mr. So-and-so, a street contractor, was
not available for comment." No, I imagine not; he
must be rather catatonic by now.
And 1 was in the rear of one aisle, face to face with
toilet-training needs. I wouldn't have thought there
were so many. A partial list:
Dee's Half Pint Portable Urinal for Small Boys
Wee Wee Travel Urinal for Both Boys and Girls
Cosco Baby Toilette
Musical Potty (!)
Yes, musical potty. When baby "deposits," reward-
ing music plays.
How would David Brinkley handle this, if he were
doing one of his wry closeouts on the subject of Baby
News? "We are a society," he might say, "that is
presently contemplating a supersonic transport plane,
the SST. Its sonic boom will damage children before
birth, possibly producing heart defects, impaired
hearing. But there will be some comforts left to them.
They will have their musical potties."
I was feeling less euphoric than when I'd come into
I realized just then that another girl was also taking
notes on these toilet-training needs. She was about
my age, and we might have looked quite a bit
alike— except she was just about nine months' preg-
nant. Also, she was turning the boxes around and
writing down the prices. I considered doing the same
thing, then got distracted by another line of thought.
I looked at her and wondered what the rest of her life
would be like— and mine. Tonight, I would be meet-
ing my husband at the St. Francis. And she? A year
from now, would she be in this store again, pricing
different items? A year from now, I will, I thought,
probably be standing somewhere with my note-
book—but somewhere else. I was getting involved in
some complicated comparative speculation when a
salesman in a red-and-white striped jacket came push-
ing a cart down the aisle. All the salesmen had
red-and-white striped jackets. This cart, as I recall,
contained plastic teether rattles filled with edible
gelatin. They were electronically sealed, with no
rough edges . . .
And the salesman was approached by a distraught-
looking man, whom I'd seen wandering around the
store for some time, come to think of it. In a barely
audible voice, and with nervous glances at the other
girl and me, he asked the salesman for a "a . . . a . . .
do you have ... a ... a breast pump?" His
embarrassment had made the last two words shrill. He
glanced over his shoulder at us again, then the
salesman led him cheerfully down the aisle. The other
girl turned back to the toilet needs. I decided I had
seen enough of Baby News. Brushing past the Happy
Baby this-and-that's, the infant enema syringes, the
Orajel and the Hula Coopes and the no-doubt hun-
dreds of other baby delights I had not yet taken notes
on, I left the store.
What was wrong? That man's wife had evidently
needed a breast pump; he'd gone to buy one for her.
What was wrong with that, I asked myself. Well, the
fact that he had seemed so nervous about it— embar-
rassed would be more the word— that was what was
wrong with it. He looked like a twelve-year-old boy
looks when his mother sends him to the drugstore for
Kotex. And I think Philip Roth has described that
I wanted to figure this out. Why does a boy or a
man feel embarrassed or humiliated at having to buy
a woman things like Kotex or a breast pump? I
suppose not all men would be bothered. And a girl I
knew in college regularly picked up her boyfriend's
Trojans at the pharmacy. That didn't bother her.
But then that was Lorraine. And nothing bothered
her. Besides, Trojans are directly related to sexual
enjoyment. Mutual sexual enjoyment. Kotex and
nursing aids are different. They're accoutrements to
female reproductive physiology. In asking a man to
get them, is there kind of an implicit subjugation
involved? Is there?
A psychologist I'd interviewed the day before,
Nathaniel Branden, had said, "To the degree that
aspects of reproduction are overemphasized, aspects
of sexuality are de-emphasized." Would that man,
that night, see his wife's breasts as, well, alluring or
There is no way to tell, of course. But it is possible
that wife-as-babynurse is not at all the same as
And the effects of all those other Baby News
products might also be negative.
The infant seats, the Strollee playpens, the Busy
Boxes, and all the other superstuff is presented by the
superstuff-makers as creating a serene and happily
playful domestic scene. It doesn't. What actually
happens when you have a baby and the inevitable
agglomeration of baby things is quite different: you
increase your potential for accidents and aggravation;
you reduce the probability of keeping living areas in
good order; you might limit personal space.
Now, that might seem rather irrelevant, and indeed
might be irrelevant if people existed solely on a plane
of ideas and were not affected by their surroundings.
But we are affected by our surroundings, or we would
vacation as readily in garages as at resorts. And
day-to-day surroundings are even more important.
The pattern of stumbling over and falling over a
variety of toys, on a day-in, day-out basis, can be
rather persistently demoralizing and can be responsi-
ble for a lot of minor husband-wife fights. (Onegrad
student I know is examining accidents in the home,
speculating that stumbling over Junior's toys is, in a
sense, deliberate, giving father a chance to "blow off
steam" at Junior, but in an indirect and "acceptable"
And just as disordered living conditions can create a
sense of mild despair ("Helen, for heaven's sake, isn't
there any place to sit down in this room?") and
perhaps a strong desire to escape, diminished personal
space can be oppressive and can breed emotional
Perhaps more seriously, when you acquire all those
playthings for baby, you shift material emphasis from
things that provide direct enjoyment for you and
your husband to things that provide only vicarious
participation in baby's babyhood. The shift from
things man and wife enjoy to baby-centered items is
quite clear if we recall a few of the things at Baby
Or if we glance at the offerings in a typical Parents
magazine: a Dresdenite, chinalike finish for baby's
precious shoes; "little doodits"; musical tooth-
brushes; and something called a thermo-spoon.
(That's one with a thermometer built into the handle,
to tell when the food is just the right temperature.)
All sorts of cutesy things, just the sort that can
ultimately demoralize a man who walks into roomfuls
of the stuff. Interestingly enough, turning the page of
that March, 1970 Parents magazine from the men-
tioned slew of ads, we find a column called "Books
Three, and only three, books were listed:
1) Compatible Divorce
2) The Divorced Mother
3) Explaining Divorce to Children
You know, I think perhaps / could explain some
divorces rather simply. Dad may simply have gotten
fed up with all those Dresdenite-finished shoes, mini-
vaporizers, cradlettes, musical floatees. Busy Boxes
and littld doodits, and decided he wanted a dark-
beamed oak den, black leather sofa, fake zebra throw,
a bar, and a woman.
Well, that's immature, you say, and that's selfish.
I think it's quite mature behavior. Being mature
assumes a certain amount of personal power, and the
right to decide in what way that power will be
exercised. And selfishness, in the sense of being aware
of, and proud of, the self, is certainly a factor in a
balanced personality. It's the weak personalities that
completely resign themselves to the role of consumer
of child-centered gee-gaws who are in trouble. Being
aware of one's own adult sensuality, personality, and
material preferences is good.
And while I'm not a materialist in the extreme
sense, I think that a great piece of furniture detracts
not one whit from an intelligent conversation. I think
that a really fine wine goes very well with good
thoughts. Life is after all built on the tangible as well
as the intangible— on material things as well as ab-
stract thoughts and feelings. In balance, the material
things enrich one's sense of the abstract and play a
certain role in defining for a person his concept of
Now, when a man is denied the chance to meet the
material things of his preference from the vast pano-
rama of material things offered by this material soci-
ety, he is denied one avenue of expression of self.
This is not news, really. Women "express" themselves
through decoration of homes, men "express" their
personality in their choice of a slick Fiat or sedate
Mercedes; all people "express" themselves through
their choice of books, films, food, clothing. Besides
being an avenue of self-expression, spending can bring
direct enjoyment in terms of sensation, esthetics, or
What happens if most of the spending money is
pre-empted for baby's things? To the extent that this
happens, an adult's material experience can become
vicarious and unsatisfying.
Much of human experience is vicarious, of course.
(When you see a play, you participate vicariously
with the characters on stage. Your husband's pleasure
in bringing you a gift is partly vicarious; he shares
your pleasure.) But to experience the things of
childhood vicariously might constitute, in a life lack-
ing in alternate interests, a regression. It might not
seem, on a conscious level, to be negative or unsatis-
fying. But it might not be positive experiential
growth, either. What can happen to parents who
spend evening after evening watching Junior play
with his toys? In ten years, those parents may be at a
sensitivity-training session, trying to rediscover what
they lost, sensually, on the living-room floor, as they
gradually taught themselves that their day-to-day
enjoyments were available chiefly through Junior.
It's all to the benefit of certain manufacturers, of
course. Though, since almost no manufacturers are
concerned with the effects of their products, we
shouldn't expect the toy companies to worry about
how their playthings will affect the interpersonal
balance of a marriage.
But once in a while responding to Babysell can
affect larger balances, too. For example, in the May
1, 1970, Life magazine, International Paper Company
had a two-page ad. One page showed a closeup of a
pink baby. That was on the left.
Seeing that, we were supposed to accept whatever
was said in the copy, to the right of the picture. And
the copy read something like this:
"Tomorrow's baby . . . everything the baby
wears or touches— virtually the entire environment
in which he lives— can be disposable. Why do we
' need a disposable environment? Consider this: in
the first five years of his life, a baby will outgrow
everything you buy him. He'll outgrow his bed
three times, and his clothing up to eight times . . .
Take clothes, for example. A baby's wardrobe can
start with our Flushabye diapers . . . And that's
really just the start. International Paper can be
made into just about everything else a baby will
touch or wear. Sheets, pillowcases, blankets,
shirts, sleepers, training pants ..."
The ad then mentions that diaper rash may be.
eliminated, since nothing will ever touch baby's skin
twice. Then it goes on:
"The idea of a disposable environment includes
furniture, too ... we plan to make nursery
And here's the real pitch:
"And by the time baby grows up, there's a good
chance he may be moving into an entire paper
world. Curtains, carpets, furniture . . ."
And all disposable.
Today the Flushabye diaper. Tomorrow the Flush-
Let's see just what we've accepted, if we've gone
along with this disposables-are-good-for-baby reason-
ing. We have accepted that all of these sheets, sleep-
ers, nursery furniture, et cetera, will be made from
paper: that is, trees. Since International Paper intends
this stuff to be discarded periodically, we're talking
about a lot of trees. (Baby never has diaper rash. Of
course, he may never see a forest either.)
And meanwhile, we have all lost a bit of the world
around us, if we accept this particular example of
Babysell. We have subjected our adult human possi-
bilities for enjoyment of the world to a baby's
supposed need for Flushabye environments.
The International Paper ad ignores that basic truth
and glosses over the rather frightening implications of
disposable environments with a simplistic "But baby
won't have diaper rash" approach. This is a different
phase of Babysell. Before a woman becomes preg-
nant, the images imply, "Wouldn't this be nice?"
After she becomes a mother, ads such as the Inter-
national Paper one imply, "Baby is all that's impor-
tant," and do not invite her to think beyond that.
When you do think beyond that, though, you see
that in giving to baby, you can deprive yourself,
perhaps seriously. Of what might you be deprived? I
have some rather complicated answers in my notes;
one psychologist spoke in terms of "sensory and
experiential deprivation" and of its effects. I think a
somewhat clearer answer might be found in my casual
encounter with a couple named Al and Ginger.
After I left the Baby News store in San Francisco, I
went to get a cup of coffee someplace upstairs in the
Cannery, a few blocks away. The coffee shop was
crowded, and I finally asked a young couple if I could
sit at their table. They moved about a half a ton of
packages and said sure.
You just have to ask about that many packages.
"Some things for our beach house— like bikinis for
Gen," the man, who at second glance was not so
young after all, explained.
They talked. I opened my notebook and put ques-
tion marks and asterisks and stuff all over my Baby
News notes. As I was finishing my coffee, I asked
them where their beach house was.
"Malibu," the man said, rather expansively, "thanks
"Hey, you made the money, Al, most of it. I just
held off from spending anything, that's all."
"We were always saying, even before we got mar-
ried, that we wanted a beach house. I really thought
it was all talk; how were we going to— I mean, there
are managers at the plant where I work who couldn't
—but Gen's attitude was that for one year we were
going to save everything we made; and if we saved
everything, we could afford anything. And after
about a year, year and a half, we had, well, a hell of a
lot of money. We bought a little bit of stock, because
-I'm not sure I trust it— the market, that is . . ."
"Have you ever asked a stock broker for 5 shares of
stock?" Ginger asked.
"Yes," I said, and we laughed.
"So, Al liked Malibu a lot, and we looked around
for a couple of summers, found a place we liked , . ."
"Well, we're spending money now. Well, actually,
not so much at that. Al made most of the furniture—
from used wood as a matter of fact— and we re-
finished what we had before. These things are just
crazy extras: lots of posters, candles, a bean-bag
chair, things for the bar, and— hey, you have a picture
of the place, don't you, Al?"
Actually, it looked like the sort of place Bill and I
want: a simple A-frame, a deck facing the ocean. Our
beach, though, is on the other side of the continent,
in North Carolina. And so far, when we go there, we
sleep in sleeping bags.
"... have to drive all the things down there next
weekend and do a lot of work; we're having friends
there over Memorial Day. It's a 'bring your own food'
deal, though. I don't want Gen to have to do cooking
and moving in at the same time."
"Have I told you five times, or ten, I wouldn't
"Nope. You're spending as little time as possible in
that kitchen . . ."
She leaned over toward him, laughing. I couldn't
hear what she said . . .
I pushed the coffee cup away. I was never going to
get my shopping done this afternoon; it was 4:30
now. Oh, well, Bill liked the gold knit I had at the
"How long have you been married?" I asked them.
Five years, they said. And, feeling like all the busy-
noses who are always asking me the same thing, I
asked, with some hesitation, "Do you have any
Their "no" was vehement.
All that week, I'd been talking to lawyers and
marriage counselors about the weighty burdens of
parenthood and conflicts precipitated by children. I
somehow felt like reciting it all to them so they'd
know how right they were. But then, they seemed to
know, anyway. So I didn't bother. Instead, I just said,
"My husband and I don't either."
Ginger laughed again and said, "Isn't it wonderful?
You know, whenever we visit friends with children, I
enjoy the children— I really do— but we are so glad to
"We're enough for each other," she added.
And I'm sure they were.
And I'm sure there was a difference in the way they
felt about each other, in contrast to, say, the way the
couples at Baby News felt about each other. For one
thing, Al and Ginger were together that afternoon.
Most of the toddlers at Baby News had been with one
parent (mother), not both. For another thing, Al and
Ginger seemed to have a material satisfaction that not
everybody who indulges in money-spending gets.
They had what they wanted; perhaps it's as simple as
that. "Lying out there on the deck," Al had said,
"listening to that ocean, knowing that part of it's
mine is the greatest feeling in the world."
How many other men might feel the same way,
might prefer a bit of -ocean to, say, a camper?
Now, I know that you can take that general argu-
ment and turn it into a number of specifics that
sound very selfish. Am I saying, for example, that a
man would be better off to experience the taste of
good Scotch instead of buying baby food? Or that
the man who bought the breast pump would have
been happier buying a set of golf balls?
There are no answers to these questions, because
what's at issue can't be reduced to specifics so easily.
And, I'm aware that I seem to be substituting one
brand of materialistic consumption for another, and
in effect saying, "If you don't get trapped into
buying playpens and tricycles, you can get great
modern furniture." That's not quite it. What I'm
really trying to say is that without children you have
more choice about material spending. And this can
lead to an assessment of life's possibilities in more
total ways. Right now, Al and Ginger are going
through a phase of materialism, true. Most couples
do. But if they've indulged themselves, they can
abandon this phase easily when they feel they want
to. A child's material "needs" are continuous, and,
believe it or not, a couple can face censure if they
don't buy the trainer bike or the Bass Weejuns.
And we should note that, along with their material-
ism, Al and Ginger are reaching out for new experi-
ences, a new role. They're stepping out of the
usual young-blue-collar-worker-and-wife stereotype.
They've bought a place that some of Al's supervisors
couldn't afford. That's going to lead to some interest-
ing insights into people he knows at work. (Some
will, no doubt, cultivate invitations; others will scoff.)
And it's going to lead to expanded acquaintances.
Most of those who have weekend places like Al and
Ginger's will be different in background. Maybe the
affluent couple next door will take one look at Al's
hand-crafter sofa and retreat to their own Vladimir
Kagan stuff. (Or maybe they'll expand their idea
about furnishings.) And maybe Al and Ginger will
find themselves irreconcilably opposed politically to
the SDS types who have the cottage down the beach
in the other direction. And, if so, who knows? Maybe
they'll begin to dislike this entire milieu they've put
themselves into. (Or maybe they'll change their atti-
tudes—or cause other people to change theirs— and
find the changes interesting.)
And that's the real point: whatever happens, Al and
Ginger will be free to choose and free to change. And
those two freedoms can get pretty limited when your
life is circumscribed by Busy Boxes and Mattel
Think about this the next time you see an elaborate
ad by a "baby" profiteer. Of course somebody is
going to be profiting from your money, and mine.
But I'd rather it be a travel agent than a talcum-
powder magnate; a pre-fab beach house company
than an institution specializing in row-house mort-
gages; a flower-seller than a diaper service. I'd rather
hear ocean surf on an A-frame deck than Busy Boxes
clattering in a cluttered kitchen.
I suspect that you might, too.
You might consider giving yourself that choice.
THE MEDIA TRAP
Eddie Albert interviews a typical housewife in a
TV commercial. She has one child with her, but
explains, "I've got eleven more at home." "That's
wonderful" Eddie Albert responds.
"I think children are definitely the most fulfilling
thing for a woman . . ."
—Actress on the David Frost Show
Both in response to the manufacturers' advertising
dollars and due to the deeply encultured ideal of
nimily life, the media have built up a "motherhood"
mystique that at times verges on the hysterical.
Motherhood is continually associated with a mysti-
cal "fulfillment" (mystical because, since this fulfill-
ment usually does not exist, it must be described in
vague ways). And, through ads and commercials,
mommies are made to seem not only "fulfilled" but
glamorous. This can lead, or mislead, many girls who
might otherwise have been happy and childless into
having children they later realize they did not want
and cannot raise.
Now, of course the media build up misleading ideas
about everything. All the complications of life, love,
careers, conflicts, death or disinheritance, find their
tie-up at the end of thirty minutes. And, if only by
the implications of the models chosen, the settings
used, all commercials mislead; it's not just the prod-
uct pushes based on parenthood. We catch on to this,
eventually. We learn that: (a) Bisquick has little to do
with a loving atmosphere in the apartment; (b) Salem
cigarettes do not create a scene of natural splendor
around you; (c) toothpaste will not produce ro-
mance; (d) all of these.
But the consequences of identifying with the ma-
ternal models on TV are so long-lasting! By the time
one catches on to the fact that it's impossible to be
that slim, witty, alluring girl-mother the Clairol and
the Grape Nuts ads implied it was possible to be, the
trap has closed.
The magazine models are perhaps even worse. On
TV, things happen fast. The attractive-mother images
are projected visually, subliminally, quickly. But the
magazines take their time and spell it out. They make
of motherhood a science, or perhaps a religion, with
cults and subcults: to breastfeed or not to breastfeed;
natural -childbirth, Lamaze method vs. childbirth by
hypnosis, et cetera.
Even The New York Times Magazine in one issue
contemplated the "areola of the lactating breasts"
and the "anxiety -milk-loss-failure syndrome" in an
article that seemed to have escaped from McCall's.
Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Wom-
an's Day, Life, Look, Time, and even Vogue, all
concern themselves at times with the expectant moth-
er's complexion, carriage, nausea, varicose veins, fetal
movements, size, weight, and emotion; with the
lubricants of the birth passage and the language of
cooing. And an evangelistic magazine put out by La
Leche League International promotes, in a bi-month-
ly paper, "Good Mothering Through Breastfeeding
the World Over." (Member mothers take their tots
and have group breastfeedings.)
The religious aura surrounding the maternal state
shows up a lot in the Ladies' Home Journal. Their
February, 1970 story on Helen Meyner's "miracle"
pregnancy is adulatory, almost worshipful:
"Here is the moving story of how she risked her
health to take an experimental fertility drug . . .
For years, against the advice of skeptical doctors
. . . she had taken injections of an experimental
and dangerous fertility drug. The treatment had
failed. Helen Meyner could have given up. She felt
that she had so much of what she wanted in life
—wonderful husband, nice home, an interesting
newspaper job, a chance to travel, all the com-
forts. But she wanted to experience the miracle of
pregnancy and childbirth so much that she begged
her doctor to continue the fertility injections . . ,
(This despite the fact that the drug she was taking
had been known to cause severe or fatal disorders
of the ovaries and circulatory system.)
"And now [ Ladies' Home Journal continued tri-
umphantly] Helen Meyner enters the last month
At that point I, a fairly puzzled reader, had a couple
of questions: one, about the suitability of mother-
hood for a woman who would become obsessed with
questionable medical treatments which had proved
fatal; two, my God! Couldn't she have adopted
It seemed perverse— obscene— to spend so much
time, energy and effort to get one's very own zygote
going ("One morning she drove for hours to see the
doctor, to ask once more for injections . . .") when
the world outside is just crying for that attention.
Surely, in 1969 and early 1970, there was a project of
the community which could have used her efforts,
and might have made the world a bit better for all the
babies already living. (Her husband, Robert Meyner,
61 and a former governor, being supposedly con-
cerned for the state of the world, might have ap-
proved of that. Characteristically, I'm afraid, the
Ladies' Home Journal did not seem one bit concerned
with his reactions to all of Helen's hormonal fol-
Helen Meyner, then, was a media model. She didn't
just "have a baby," or "become pregnant." She was
featured in "The Magazine Women Believe In," and
thus became a national example, convincing people
by the droves, probably, that pregnancy must be
pretty groovy, since she risked death to get it.
Redbook has also presented its versions of Girls
Who Go to Extremes to Get Pregnant. In an anon-
ymous story, a Redbook reader told how she con-
ceived a child by donor insemination:
"The doctor selects a donor, often a medical
student or another doctor,' Dr. (X) said. His
health is carefully checked, and his mental and
physical characteristics are matched with the hus-
band's as closely as possible. The donor's identity
cannot be traced, and you're protected complete-
ly. On the day of ovulation, you receive the semen
The woman involved kept a basal temperature chart
throughout her menstrual cycle, and each day at
lunchtime went to the doctor's office to have a
culture taken. One day after checking the vaginal
smear, Dr. X. announced, "Today's the day," and
told her to wait about half an hour for the semen to
arrive. A thought that went through her mind, she
said, was that while this isn't exactly the way a
woman envisions conception (and it sure isn't]), if
this is what was necessary for her to conceive, well, so
be it. In other words, quite apart from pregnancy
resulting from an act between her and her husband,
and in spite of the fact that the doctor had told her
some husbands later ask for divorce on the grounds of
donor insemination, she took her husband's word
that he didn't think this would bother him, so eager
was she for her own pregnancy . . .
Lying on the examining table, looking at that
"small white jar that looked as though it might
contain face cream," the woman's thoughts, accord-
ing to this self-written article, were centered on "that
unknown man who would provide the semen . . ."
Does that seem like a scene that will further future
closeness between husband and wife? It is a scene, in
fact, that again shows just how anti-sexual reproduc-
tion can be— this time in almost a Brave New World
"Why are stories like this run?" I asked assistant
editors at various magazines. "Meeting reader inter-
est," was the usual reply. Partially, that's nonsense.
Any magazine recognizes its power to create reader
interest in new personalities, new lifestyles, new
writers, new directors, new products. New products.
Interestingly enough, at one magazine I ended up, in
pursuing this seemingly editorial question, in the
office of someone called an "editorial merchandising
Yes, editorial and merchandising policy do mix.
Time, last May, revealed that Denver Posr reporters
were rebelling at being assigned "puff pieces" to
support ads in the paper. Their situation is certainly
not unique, though it is less pronounced in news-
papers than the ladies' magaines. There, such columns
as "Occupation: Homemaker" demonstrate the maga-
zines' obsequious attitude toward their advertisers.
Here's just one paragraph from that column:
"Manufacturers are always interested in improving
their products, adding new features all the time,
to make them more convenient or better to use.
For example, the cutting-wheel assembly on elec-
tric can openers has always been difficult to keep
clean. Now, many can openers have a snap-off
cutter that can be removed and quickly washed."
Good grief. Are people really bothered by things
like that, until the magazines and the manufacturers
tell them? Do any girls really get upset at that
stubborn little cutting-wheel assembly? Couldn't any
girl with a tenth of a brain figure out that the most
efficient way to open a can is with one of those 29tf
What is the idea of promoting all that work-
producing gadgetry? That was my question; and I
took it to a person whose magazine runs similar
The idea was, he said candidly, to keep women busy
in the home, busy with homemaking tools.
"Well, if you want to keep women in the home, is it
your idea to promote childbearing as well? Is that
what's behind the stories that glorify baby-having?"
"Well, I can't say that," he said, "but figures may
have been kept a time or two, on how many women
readers get pregnant each year. Some advertisers are
impressed by that, since they know these women are
more apt to stay at home, read the magazine— and the
ads— more carefully."
That's what an "editorial merchandising specialist"
in Chicago told me, anyway. He also said, "Now, if
I talk to you, I want you to conceal very, very
carefully the publishing company I work for." So,
of course, this was not really in Chicago.
But he did have some other interesting things to
"So, inasmuch as we're selling domesticity, I guess
we're selling motherhood. The situation is kind of a
paradox since no matter how merchandisers try to
show that being a mom and a homemaker is fascinat-
ing, it's essentially not. Breeding is not chic, it is not
fun, it is not glamorous. A psychiatrist, close friend
of mine, says housewives' alcoholism is increasing like
crazy. That Friedan book* said the full-time house-
wife is neurotic. And frankly we've all got indications
that they're basically right about that. One of our
competitors just had to run an article about 'I'm Just
a Housewife Blues,' because there's no denying a
problem does exist.
"But the simplest way out of the problem is
through spending," he continued, in easy self-justifi-
cation. "I mean, you know the old saw about the
wife feeling depressed, buying a new hat, and feeling
better. Well, it's true. Spending money is therapeutic.
If we can keep her spending, she'll be more satisfied
with her role. Now, doesn't that make sense?"
Sure. Consumerism as therapy. Keep women so
* The Feminine Mystique. His one-sentence sum-up of this book is
somewhat of an oversimplification, by the way, but not basically
busy spending money that they'll be too busy to
question or examine their lives.
"Inasmuch as we're promoting domesticity, I guess
we're promoting motherhood . . ."
They do a good job of it. Like Detroit cars,
Motherhood is presented in a variety of models, all,
of course, idealized. Glancing through a batch of
magazines, I found several distinct types:
First, there's the Pillar of the Community model.
She's married to Somebody: president or pediatri-
cian, copper magnate or Chamber of Commerce
bulwark. You'll find lots of articles by and about her,
all centering on "How I Raise My Children." She
tends to emphasize other things, too, of course:
projects of the garden and the ghetto. Typically, she
opens her home to the garden club but not the ghetto
children; her services to them are restricted to white-
glove fund raising. She certainly doesn't adopt any of
these truly needy children. Instead, she and her
husband are typically genetic narcissists: nothing will
do but for them to produce their very own straight-
haired and blue-eyed youngsters, who are given pres-
tigious names like Moss, Troy, Kerry, Clayman.
For several reasons, it would be unrealistic to
identify with her.
In the first place, she has servants. She need never
deal with dirty closets, diaper pails, Drano. She does
valuable, uplifting things. That's why she looks so
radiant, and that's why the kids look glad to see her.
She's special— like company that just happens to
arrive every evening.
For most mothers I've talked to, such a setup
doesn't seem reachable. Even if Mom has help for
cleaning and leaves Junior and Wendy at a day-care
nursery, she has to come home and fuss with cooking
the macaroni and cutting meat off that leftover leg of
lamb, not to mention fixing Junior's junior vegetables
and seeing to Wendy's change of clothes. Sometimes,
Dad takes charge of the kids during most of the
dinner-getting process. But then, communications be-
tween the living room and the kitchen can snarl,
resulting in non-discussions like:
"Bob, what are they doing? Are you keeping an eye
"Nothing, they're OK."
"Well, watch that Wendy doesn't pull anything off
the coffee table."
"Bob, are you reading the paper!?"
"Bob, you've got to watch them. Is the balcony
door open? Do keep an eye on Wendy "
"Listen, will you see if Wendy's got to go to the
"You want me to take her?"
"Well, Bob, either that or you'll have to wash this
lettuce while I . . ."
"I'll take her, I'll take her; hey, when's dinner,
"In just a few minutes. Bob!"
Naturally, after fifteen minutes of such rattling
repartee, both husband and wife sit down to dinner
mildly aggravated. Yes, it is difficult to be a "Pillar of
the Community" model mother— without servants.
A second disadvantage to this woman, by the way,
is that she usually has far too many children. She has
six. Or eight. Or occasionally more.
There is no justification for this. Of course, she can
"afford" it, particularly if her name is Kennedy. But
the world cannot. As an American Medical Associa-
tion publication stated last year,
"Children have long been regarded by parents in
economic terms. Can we afford to send four
children to college? Will we find our budget
pinched with the extra clothing, food, medical
and dental bills? The man who decides that he can
have four children in many ways resembles the
one who has concluded that he can afford three
automobiles . . . They can afford them; the fact
that society cannot is (to them) irrelevant."
That should be obvious. Any couple who produce six
or eight or more children during a twenty-year,
super-ultra, child-raising binge is being exceedingly
selfish, much like the man who blasts away his entire
paycheck on drinks while his ailing wife starves. The
Kennedys and other dynasties let the world go hun-
gry as they consume all of the dwindling resources
the world has left to offer.
While on the surface, there seems to be a Tightness
to the life of the Pillar of the Community mother, her
inner attitudes are very unthinking, and very wrong.
Another media model is the Professional Mother.
She's not so well-known. Her husband is perhaps a
salesman, perhaps an accountant. She lives in Cedar
Rapids or Overland Park.
"I always say if you're going to do something, do it
right; and if you're going to raise children, then stay
home and raise them," "A woman's place is in the
home," and other such pellets of wisdom drop from
her lips, in articles about homemaking.
She does not get out of the house.
She plays with the creative playthings and the Busy
Boxes, accompanies her tots to hopscotch games and
the playground, runs with them to the Good Humor
truck. And after a few years of this, she, too, has a
mental age of five and a half— and as much sex appeal
as Betty Crocker.
Her husband works late on Tuesdays, if he is a
salesman, and he looks forward to business trips with
a double incentive: the opportunity for expense-
account living, plus a bit of expense-account padding
to help provide for that brood at home, and the
chance to get away from that brood (and the mother
The Glamour-Doll motherhood model is a present,
or former, singer, actress, ballerina, movie star.
"With a brood of children ranging from six to
sixteen, she is more a mother than a movie star
today," begins a syndicated feature on Ann Blyth. An
interview with former ballerina Moira Shearer empha-
sizes the "great satisfactions" that she has found in
And sometimes the glamour mom is a member of
nobility. Vogue is fond of presenting this type: the
Marquesa de Something-or-other with her adorable
blonde children. (The fact that she has children must
be stressed, of course, to make the Marquesa more
acceptable to the masses of middle-class American
mommies, who will then buy her line of cosmetics
which has just hit the U.S. market.)
The Marquesa, as posed by a top photographer, is
absolutely vibrant. Oscar de la Renta gown. Flowing
hair. Lithe limbs. You can almost sense the smoulder-
ing female feelings that lie just behind that calm,
chiseled face as she sips champagne with her husband
on their chateau lawns. (Meanwhile, the servants are
taking care of the children's suppers.)
Only one thing wrong here: how many of us are
living in a hillside castle and married to, like a
marquis? Let's not delude ourselves that motherhood
is like that; let's not identify with her.
In a rather clever poem, Judith Viorst has pointed
out the disparity between a Marquesa's life with kids:
and what ours would be like:
"Oh somewhere there are lovely little boudoirs
With Porthault sheets and canopies and whips.
He lion-hunts in Africa on weekends,
She measures thirty-three around the hips.
"There eyes engage across the brandy snifters.
He runs his fingers through her Kenneth hair.
The kids are in the other wing with Nanny;
The sound of violins is everywhere . . ."
That 's the candid portrait of a Marquesa.
And here's what it's like for Average American
"I bring the children one more glass of water.
I rub the hormone night cream on my face.
Then after I complete my isometrics
I greet my husband with a warm embrace.
A vision in my long-sleeved flannel nightgown,
And socks (because my feet are always freezing)
Gulping tranquilizers for my nerve ends,
And Triaminic tablets for my wheezing.
And now my rollers clink upon the pillow
And his toenail scrapes against my skin
He rises to apply a little chapstick
I ask him to bring back two Bufferin . . ."*
That poem, by the way, is called "Sex Is Not So
Sexy Anymore," and the message, though delivered
humorously, is pretty clear.
But to be frank about it, if you have children, even
all the money of a marquesa may not provide the
pleasures you might think. I remember an article in
last June's Mademoiselle magazine. Barbara Gilliam
had asked various celebrities where they liked to
vacation, and their replies were a complete catalog of
the world's delights. Until she got to Joseph Heller.
"Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, gets last place
in the vacation sweepstakes," she wrote. "He and his
family try a different place each year, because the
previous year is always a disaster, he says. They've
been to the mountains, the shore, and Europe. 'The
kids never stopped complaining the twelve weeks we
were in Europe . . .' Heller said, T dread the approach
of summer . . .' "
Even if you have tons of money, identifying with
maternity models— even glamorous ones— could be an
unsatisfying move. You might no longer be able to
enjoy the experiences that all that money could buy.
* Reprinted by permission of The World Publishing Company from
It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty . . . & Other Tragedies of Married Life
by Judith Viorst. An NAL book. Copyright ©1968 by Judith Viorst.
An interesting and rather recent addition to the line
of motherhood models is the Out-of Wedlock Mother,
a popular soap-opera and fan-magazine type.
Mia Farrow is perhaps the best real-life example;
certainly there were more articles about her matern-
ity than about Connie Stevens, Joanna Pettet and
Vanessa Redgrave combined. Photographed while
pregnant in a shiny, sequined envelope that rather
flaunted her condition, she may have looked like a
brave and rebellious girl defying convention. A closer
look shows an almost classic case of pregnancy
motivated by insecurity.
Mia Farrow was evidently never too sure of her
femininity. A reporter, discussing her adolescence,
says in a May, 1969 Life magazine:
"About this time, Mia was asking herself a disturb-
ing question: why don't boys pay any attention to
me? She can remember a teen-age dance in the
Beverly Hills Hotel when she and another girl were
the classic wallflowers, watching everybody but
themselves dancing. 'Then a boy walked toward
us,' Mia recalls, 'I brightened up but he reached
out and took the other girl onto the dance floor. I
was the only one left.' "
She was always intensely bothered by her flat chest.
(Her real reason for not posing nude, friends say, is
less a matter of principle than of physique.)
Vernon Scott, Hollywood reporter for the UPI, has
said that she is seriously introverted. Thomas Thomp-
son, another reporter, described her world as "shape-
less ... a place of surmise ..." She lived, in effect, a
fantasy. Asked by one reporter what she'd have done
if she hadn't gone into acting, she replied in male or
bisexual terms: "chimney sweep . . ." "cowboy . . ."
Not surprisingly, Mia Farrow retreated in a number
of ways from the femininity she was not sure of. She
cut her hair into a plucked-chicken bob. ("Mythical
suicide," said Salvador Dali. "If not a symbolic
suicide, at least a symbolic de-sexing of herself," said
another source.) She entered a convent in London for
a while. And, she married a father figure.
It is not any secret, psychologically, that the girl
who marries a much older man is avoiding the
competition for the more virile males her own age
and seeking instead to re-create the pattern of daddy -
daughter indulgence of earlier years.
Mia could handle that. Frank Sinatra was nothing if
not indulgent. She selected their $300,000 mansion
and was taken to L.A. discotheques to go dancing
with "approved" boys her age while "Daddy"
Later, in her relationship with Andre Previn, she
seized a chance to project the idea that she was
feminine, after all. She became pregnant. But the
dynamics of that pregnancy look like those of com-
pensation; she was compensating, or making up for,
the sense of feminine inadequacy she revealed in
several interviews. But that is her business, just as
were Helen Meyner's medical minuets; and I am sorry
to be criticizing them. No matter how questionable
their motives for pregnancy, my real quarrel is with
the media (the women's magazines, in the case of
Helen Meyner; the Hollywood pulps in Mia's case) for
glorifying their "miracle pregnancy" and "love chil-
dren" and failing to give any realistic examination of
their motives. Certainly it is irresponsible journalism,
given today's population problem, to praise these
pregnancies without qualification and without ques-
tion. If some realistic reportorial questions were
raised, it might be seen that not all pregnancies result
from healthy or romantic reasons.
And that might be a valuable lesson.
The Hippie Mother has a particular sort of appeal.
She projects several qualities: an earth-mother kind of
sensuality; defiance of convention; bizarre way of
dress; nonchalance about responsibility; liberal mor-
als; and, above all, an emphasis on the natural, the
Part of this supposed "reality" is a propensity to
reproduce. The fifteen-couple commune profiled by
Life magazine in July of 1969 sported nearly that
many children. But what happens afterwards? Do the
hippie mothers have successful lives, with children?
Having rejected status and social conformity, ac-
cording to one reporter many of the mothers wryly
concede they've been forced to play the same game in
the hippie community.
"We came to the East Village to get away from the
status thing, but the status thing is here, too," one of
these mothers told reporter Jurate Kazickas. "You
have to talk about a certain kind of child rearing . . .
you just never admit you hit your child. You have to
nurse your baby all the time, well past eight months.
You have to give your kid a strange name: Arom,
Morning Star, Namamanda . . ."
In other words, the same pressures and tensions that
beset the straight community hit the hippie mothers,
too, though the media models for the hippie lifestyle
of motherhood do not indicate this.
Nor is much ever said about the fact that a father
who stays with his hippie girlfriend, once she has had
a child, is rare. In Ms. Kazickas' interviews, published
in various newspapers, the phrase "separated from her
husband" occurred over and over again.
What attracts a boy to a girl of the new lifestyle is,
after all, a certain sense of freedom, love of experi-
ence, and spontaneity. "It's tough to be spontaneous
when your chick is eight months gone," is the way
one guy put it. He recently returned to northwest
Baltimore from new-lifestyle L.A. because, "Christ! It
was like we were married; what was the point? I've
got more freedom even here. "
In Jerry Rubin's book, Do It!, a revolutionary but
classically beautiful young couple is shown with a
child. Theirs? "Yes, I think so," Danny Moses, the
book's editor, told me by phone.
"Well, how is that working out? Are they happy?"
"Well, they may be individually," he said, "but
they're not together. One of them's in Morocco; the
other's in Berkeley, with the kid . . ."
Yet each of these models has wide appeal; each
appeals to a certain type of female. Pillar of the
Community and Professional Mother find their fol-
lowing in the suburban girls who tend to use lots of
Johnson's Wax, chat an hour every time they go to
the supermarket, have the bridge club and the Cub
Scouts over, and always know what happened on "As
the World Turns."
The Glamour-Doll model? Well, super-attractive,
super-bright girls who've gone to Goucher or Bryn
Mawr, know their wines and know who Susan Sontag
is, smoke slim cigarettes, and surf . . . these tend to
identify with the marquesa. (A drastic change in their
super-sleek image typically follows. Oscar de la Renta
does not design maternity coordinates nor house
Mia appeals to fifteen-year-old illiterates: the Jane
Smiths who read the movie magazines in Muskogee,
Los Gatos, Kansas City, or Lovelyland Park.
And the Hippie Mother turns on the kids who are
delighted with any form of rebellion against restraint.
Unfortunately, what they rebel themselves right into,
with pregnancy, is more restraint than ever: they
escape from the freedom they had before, in a rather
But the stories of all these model mamas do have
their degree of subtlety. They don't really promise
that children will make you as happy as these gleeful
gals supposedly are. They just kind of say, "Well, here
it is," leaving you to conclude that this is the way to
There are some stories, though, that seem designed
to show that a baby introduced into a household can
work magic on your relationship. Be warned before
you read this next bit: if anything screams "Trap!"
it's stuff of this sort:
"The head of a social service agency in a large city
cites the case of a youthful marriage that was
rapidly breaking up. The husband was a graduate
student in engineering and his wife worked as a
secretary to support both of them. She secretly
resented the necessity of supporting a man, and he
had profound guilt feelings about depending on a
woman. The social worker recognized that their
marital difficulties were based on deep-seated
emotional problems, traceable to their own child-
hoods, and had almost abandoned hope of pre-
venting a divorce. She became even more con-
cerned when one of her field workers reported
that the young woman was pregnant. To her
surprise, however, the young couple seemed hap-
pier than they had ever been when she saw them
on their next visit to her office. The wife spoke in
glowing terms about her job, boasting about the
things they would be able to do for her baby with
the money she was now saving with their newly
revised budget. The husband, too, was now en-
thusiastic about his studies . . ."
That's from a book called The Expectant Father,*
and a freelance writer I know is currently working it
into a ladies' magazine article. But I showed that case
history to a practicing marriage counselor here in
"Screwy!" was his opinion. "There are all sort of
gaps in that— it's a badly taken history, you under-
stand, not a history at all, really. And there are logic
gaps that aren't even psychological. What's this 'new-
ly revised budget' under which they're going to be
able to buy so much— when they won't have her
salary anymore? And, if that's accurately quoted by
the caseworker, with the woman talking of what 'she'
will be able to do for 'her' baby, that's bad. If she
continued to work and save most of the money to
pay for the child's expenses, the husband is going to
feel ultimately more inadequate and she may insist on
making spending decisions— if, you see, her attitude is
accurately reflected by that history . . .
"If that book intends," he continued, "to show that
complex marital problems, like role identity, can be
solved by the wife becoming pregnant— and that
seems to be their implication— then that is so totally
misleading that the book shouldn't even be circulat-
* By George Schaeter and Milton Zisowitz, New York: Simon &
ed. So many questionable books are being written, so
many couples read and try to understand themselves,
when what they really need is a professional third-
party perspective, that we've got a lot of corrective
work to do when the couple finally does come in for
Another psychologist agreed, in essence. "I get
really annoyed with couples who have a child to save
a marriage," she said. "When they come to me, the
child is usually about three years old, and by that
time they've destroyed not only each other but the
Nevertheless, "Baby Saves Marriage" is a rather
standard fiction formula in the ladies' magazines. The
March, 1970, Good Housekeeping, for example, tells
the tale of a girl who's suddenly thrown uptight in
her fourth year of marriage by the reappearance in
town of her husband's glamorous former girlfriend.
But ". . . the prayed-for, unhoped-for miracle hap-
pened: we were going to have a baby."
And the story comes out all right.
Redbook presented a similar short-short last Octo-
ber. One morning a young wife (worried because
"Dave and I have so little time to ourselves. Too
many things get in the way, such as his poker nights
and his extracurricular school duties . . .") cries over a
TV show and then drives to the doctor's office to
learn that she is pregnant. On the way home, she
croons things to herself like, 'Mother and Father and
Baby," and "Mommy and Daddy and Baby." Her
happy concluding thought is, "T see that I need a
baby to love, a baby around all the time." (Right;
because her husband isn't going to be.)
It seems to me unfair that the ladies' magazines
project pregnancy and maternity as essentially blissful
states, and ignore all indications to the contrary.
Children can cause serious crises within a marriage.
Children can precipitate divorce. Children can make a
man feel trapped. Children can turn a very nice girl
into a frustrated nag. (A rather beautiful friend of
mine, for instance, has two children. She also has
ulcers, colitis, hypertension headaches, a husband i
who avoids her, and a hatred of existence in general.)
These are real possibilities. But I've never seen any
of these real possibilities worked out in a magazine or
a television series. The destruction of a marriage due
to tensions caused by children? No. These scenes are
restricted to reality. There they occur with some
frequency: in the marriage counselors' offices; in the
On TV, we're shown only cutesy, knee-scraping
situations, an eighty -second, half-convincing tirade by
Father when bubble gum gets into his tobacco, a
doll-mom who rolls her eyes and resolves it all.
On these TV series, children are pandered to. Often,
though, the adult lives are fractured. How many
shows have featured kids plus one parent? Why? Oh,
a TV exec carefully explained to me that this was just
to perk up a romantic interest on the part of the
That is no answer. Whole, hale, happy couples with
kids (if that's what's living out there in televisionland)
would have no need to identify with scenes of a single
person in a parent role. The crux of the matter is that
there are lots of fractured families watching that
screen: women deserted, physically or emotionally,
by their husbands, palliated by the plastic problems
in these little TV dreams; husbands living, in fantasy,
a freedom from their wives . . .
Yet the TV images continue to glorify children, to
try to entrap those of us out here who are still free
and if I seem to be emphasizing only the negative side
of the picture (and I freely admit that this is the case)
it is in an attempt to achieve a certain perspective in
the face of all the overblown media glorification of
maternity. If I am emphasizing only the problems, it
is because the media, which should show the prob-
lems, do not.
Oh, certain magazines, in columns such as "Can
This Marriage Be Saved?" sometimes touch on the
destructive influence of children. Unfortunately, they
raise the issue only to avoid it. When there is a
problem created by children, these columns indicate
that either the husband or the wife was not "mature"
enough to meet the "responsibilities" of parenthood.
Why do they never admit an obvious possibility: that
the marriage might have been just fine without
It's too bad there are so few stories and profiles of
childless couples in the magazines, and on TV. A
network policy maker explained why: "We want to
make people feel comfortable with, or superior to,
that which they watch. We don't want to breed envy.
We don't want to show all you people traipsing off to
Europe twice a year and going to Bermuda for a
weekend— not on a regular basis."
"But you show Onassis traipsing all over the world,
and you documented one of Jackie's shopping trips."
"That's not on a regular basis; and that's different.
People never expect to do what Onassis does, so it's
not frustrating. But to see an ordinary couple like
you and your husband with almost the level of
freedom you'd expect of an Onassis . . . would make
viewers frustrated, angry. We could absolutely not
contemplate a series theme about a childless couple,
not without some gimmick that removed the situa-
tion from reality." (Like making the wife a 600-
year-old remnant from Salem country? That was
pretty far removed from reality, right? But even that
didn't work. Samantha had to become a mother
almost immediately, as though there were something
too swinging, or even sinful, about her living with her
husband as just a girlfriend-wife. We have our own
brand of Puritanism today, I guess, Samantha.)
But that's too bad, really. A series about a childless
couple might show a man and wife living, within their
community, a balanced life of pleasure and achieve-
ment. (Of course, it might be a mindless comedy, too;
but let me dream.) It might show the unique sharing
that begins to occur between a man and a woman
after the novelty of courtship and early marriage is
over; it might indicate some of the emotional variety
that is possible within the man-woman relationship.
It might tell the fascinating story of how a woman
keeps a man's interest, emotionally, after he's used to
her physically. It might show a woman who's a
sloppy housekeeper but is loved by her husband for
her qualities of awareness and involvement. It might
show a wife who's a pure-and-simple sex creature and
prefers that to a mommie role. It might show a
completely hedonistic couple out to savor the world,
and a completely altruistic couple out to save it.
There are a lot of stories such a series could tell.
(Are you listening, ABC? Do you read me, CBS and
Those are real stories I've just skimmed over— the
stories of people I know, who are far more interesting
than the consuming maternal types who dwell on
Channel 2 and in the Ladies Home Journal.
(Are you there, CondeNast?)
At least it would be a change; it would provide
some variety. I'm not asking for all of your shows.
I'm willing to be reasonable. But I think we, the wives
without children, could bring some surprises to a TV
or magazine series. Sorry, most of us don't know
ninety ways to fix economy meats. But we know how
to get our husbands to surprise us with dinner
out— and we know how to carry on a conversation
during dinner. We know a bit more about art and
theatre than about floorwax and tomato sauce (which
isn't a good combination, anyway). We read. We can
tell one rock group from another. Sometimes we're
too busy reading or listening to records to button our
sweaters the right way, but we know Laura Nyro
from Joni Mitchell and we have time to listen to
both, with our husbands. We kinda prefer profession-
al baseball to Little League games; and, yeah, we do
go to Europe once in a while. Guilty.
In case you haven't guessed, I think the media
should be telling a few of our stories.
We do live in an age of options, now. Life as a wife
doesn't have to mean drifting into the traditional
pattern of breeding-plus-house-care. The media peo-
ple might like to soft-pedal that fact, because their
biggest advertisers make drudgery products. And the
same media people throw baby-images at you to give
you the idea that this is your proper role in life. And
there you are: trapped in a repetitive behavioral
repertoire (change the baby; wash the dishes; feed the
baby; wash the diapers; walk the baby; run the
errands; change the baby again . . .) that can make
you old, dull, and bitter.
It would make some girls old, dull, and bitter
anyway, because some girls simply do not thrive on
routine, even such a supposedly blessed one as feed-
ing a baby every four hours. If you think you would
blossom in such a role, though, it's understandable.
As we've been saying, the deck is stacked to make
you think that way. But at least think beyond the
babyhood of your baby. The media stories show you,
typically, the first few years. But there are fifteen or
twenty years involved. How old would you be when
that phase of your life is over? What profound
influence might a child have on those prime years of
your life is not even hinted at by the media. If you
really feel that you want the challenge and complex-
ity of a family, you have to think through the
implications for yourself.
And, I would say, you have to think very carefully.
THE CUL TURA L ' BABIES A RE
THE MOST1MPOR TANT
THINGS IN LIFE" TRAP
"The commonest assumption among married peo-
ple is that they should have children. The next
most common assumption seems to be that chil-
dren increase the happiness of a given marriage.
There is very little evidence to support these
"Sometimes we wait too long before we get
around to questioning our assumptions."
The media are not manufacturing their maternal
mythology. They are only exaggerating and idealizing
it. They are reflecting attitudes of the culture as a
whole: a culture more concerned with reproducing
itself than with improving itself; a culture more
involved with promoting its way of life than with
examining that way of life; a culture more intent on
health than on joy; and possibly more preoccupied
with life insurance than with life itself; ("We are the
only nation on earth," says comedian Alan King, in a
not-so-funny routine, "that teaches you you are
worth more dead than alive,") a culture, in short,
with some false assumptions.
The baby trap devolves, ultimately, to something
within our culture that is deeper than a magazine
article. Babies are conspicuously displayed every-
where. What is the effect of this display? Interference
with the emergence of legitimate life-value systems.
And distorted perspective as to the world and our
place in it. To the extent that babies are emphasized,
adults are de-emphasized. To the extent that a wom-
an is regarded as a means to an end (propagating the
species) she is not seen as beautiful, vibrant, valuable,
in and of herself. To the extent that a man is seen as a
mere provider, he may be seen as less of a person.
At first thought, it would probably seem that a
man's value as a provider, and his worth as a person,
would rise simultaneously. Some would even say
there's a correlation between paternity and career
success, since so many men would not achieve wealth
and success if there were no financial pressure to do
so. And sometimes, indeed, this is the case. And
sometimes, provided the man finds career success
within a field he believes in, the total effects can be
good. A man, for example, who was rather drifting
along in a boring editorial job with a small magazine,
suddenly realized, after the birth of his daughter eight
years ago, that he had to make more money. He took
hold— made some brazen editorial suggestions that
boldly channeled the magazine into a new direction.
He's now chief editor of that magazine and finds the
new job stimulating as well as economically reward-
But let's look at another case.
A salesman for Rolaids antacid tablets and liquid
has three children and two mortgages, and does he
hustle! He studies product spec sheets religiously and
revises his sales pitch relentlessly. He learns to exhibit
a compelling belief in his product, becomes adept at
the expense -account lunch that will soften a client,
follows up by phone between sales calls to suggest
new retail marketing strategies that will increase sales
further— and becomes sales trainer for his branch
office. And maybe he wouldn't have gotten that
promotion, if he hadn't had the kids. But he did have
the kids; so he did push; and he did get that
Or is it?
Maybe without the pressure to raise his achieve-
ment—and salary— he'd have gotten a notion to grab
his wife one day and say, "Hey! We're going to the
Canadian wilderness for a year. What d'you think
about that?" And they might have. And he might
have been happier. He never had that choice, though,
to make for himself.
(And neither did the editor.)
And major decisions about what you'll do with
your life should be made in terms of your self,
shouldn't they? If a career goal is worth achieving, it
should be worth achieving for the self, shouldn't it, in
terms of developed abilities and increased self-worth?
If, without the pressure of necessity, a man would
not achieve that goal, then maybe the goal is better
In the case of the Rolaids salesman, what abilities
have really been developed? A Dale Carnegie glibness?
A skill at sales manipulation? A finesse with "'closing
techniques?" Do these abilities really play a role in
increasing a man's feelings of self-worth? Or do they
just make a man a more efficient wage producer?
We will admit, I think, that harm can be done in the
name of wages and profits. For reasons of profits,
American automakers make autos that become obso-
lete in three years; bicycles and furniture change
shape just about that often; style changes in clothing
are dictated seasonally; and soap corporations race
each other to seduce buyers with additional enzymes.
(Rolaids take care of the acid stomachs produced by
all of this, I guess.) Now you know the results of all
of this, don't you? Have you ever seen an auto
graveyard? Or a foamy-sewery river?
Now maybe, just maybe, if the original entrepre-
neurs who founded the soap, furniture, auto and dry
goods companies in question hadn't been so com-
pelled to support their children (or empire-build for
them) a few of them might have taken off to the
North Woods, too. Maybe they wouldn't have gotten
together to define "conspicuous consumption." May-
be the whole country would be better off.
As it is, though, everybody works for children;
everybody accepts that the purpose of adults is to
serve children, that if something is good for children,
we will ask no questions of its effects on us.
In the International Paper Company ad described
earlier, for example, we were urged to inhabit a
"disposable environment." A disposable environment
made from trees. What we'd really be disposing of is a
large chunk of Nature and the world.
I've said that babies interfere with valid value
systems. When that ad ran, a legitimate value system
was beginning to show signs of life. A few people,
including me, learned the word ecology. Earth Times
began publishing in San Francisco. Robert Ardrey
and others reminded us that man, if he retains any
instincts at all, is instinctive in responding to Nature.
He is comfortable and at ease when in touch with
beaches, surf, meadows. He fills his foyer with plants
and must have, if possible, a small replica of a natural
lake: a swimming pool.
In the face of this developing awareness of the
importance of Nature, though, the International Pa-
per Company showed us a baby and asked us to
throw it all away.
Supposedly, we looked at that old-fashioned ex-
ample of Babysell— we looked at the blue-eyed baby
in that ad— and suspended critical judgment. The
disposable environment seemed to be an idea that was
good for baby. And that was all that mattered.
There are other examples of distorted values built
on baby worship, and we see them nearly every time
we open a magazine: for even when magazines do
present articles relevant to the real world, they know
(they know, because they do research and motivation
studies on most of us) that we must have a mention
of babies to lure us into exposing ourselves to the
In a November, 1969 issue of Look magazine, for
example, the dangers of DDT were discussed; and it
was pointed out that most of our water is a dilute
solution of chlorine and urine. Other problems of the
environment were presented. Finally, the article men-
tioned the root cause: "Pursuing any of our problems
to its source will bring us up against a common
But on the cover of that issue is a dirigibilic
The April 21, 1970, issue of Look is no better. Yes,
there are articles by Willy Brandt, Paul Ehvlich,
Stephanie Mills, Margaret Mead, Rene Dubos, and
On the cover is a baby.
And Senator Ed Muskie took time, about two years
ago, to write an article for the Ladies' Home Journal.
His article, "What Women Can Do About Pollution,"
is not even mentioned on the cover. Instead, "Miracle
Pregnancies" gets top billing.
Then, too, there was a curious series of periodicals
distributed by the Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia
of Mind and Body. The distribution was thorough
(within one week, I saw issues in the San Diego
airport, a Chicago drugstore, and at Sherman's news
agency here in Baltimore) and the popularity of the
series was predictable, since child-raising was stressed,
and most covers had pink babies. Almost as an
afterthought, the issue I have includes an article
about anxiety, indicating children as a major factor in
above-normal worry levels. But I doubt that that
article was noticed very much; it was not given a
prominent position in the magazine.
And even Look magazine's examination of the
"motherhood myth" encased in the September 22,
1970, issue, was billed by a cover photo of an airy,
blonde-goddess mother, with a blonde-princess child.
Now, I will grant that maybe the magazines' reason
for emphasizing babies is not to present them as
uniquely valuable, but to sugar-coat a serious mes-
sage. (Maybe, that is, a Ladies' Home Journal house-
wife will buy because of a "Miracle Pregnancy"
headline and then, since she has the magazine, read
Senator Muskie's unheralded article on pollution.)
But the effect is to further reinforce babies as the sine
qua non of existence.
Just one more example. There was the issue of Life
that dealt with the neuroses and insanity that can
result from overcrowding. Fine. But then, in the same
issue and given twenty times the photographic em-
phasis, we encounter a hymn of praise to Antonia
Fraser, British writer and socialite. And we are treat-
ed to marvelous photos of her with her children:
Camian, 5; Rebecca, 12; Natasha, 6; Flora, 11; Ben-
jamin, 8; Orlando, 2.
We are given an analysis of her latest pregnancy, and
the familiar Glamour-Doll mother image. ("Here we
are at a lunch with the Count and Countess of
Longford,"— that kind of thing) but I believe my
gripe here is somewhat different.
With this particular story, we would have had a
perfect chance for an alternate emphasis: might it
have been refreshing to read about her problems of
researching Mary, Queen of Scots? About the ways
she tried to resolve conflicting evidence about the
We are told of Antonia's difficulty reaching the
uppermost library shelves while pregnant; we are not
told what was in the books she was reaching for. We
know, if we finished the article, very little about her
as a writer and relatively more about her as a mother.
This isn't simple editorial Babysell. Life's and
Look's ad pages don't show all that many house-and-
baby products. And the Marshall Cavendish series had
no advertising at all. Whatever the explanation is, it
has to go beyond economics and involve more than
It gets down to a cultural preoccupation, really. In
other cultures, the family was the lifestyle, true. And
the women had children, yes. But it was all somewhat
matter-of-fact and not such a fuss was made about
maternity. Here, as the nation advanced, motherhood
came to be regarded as sacred.
America said to Europe, "Give me your tired, your
poor . . ." not "Give me your titled and talented;"
and those who are tired and poor, throughout his-
tory, have usually found solace in the close ties of
large families. (This was before industrialization, re-
member.) The entire American dream for these peo-
ple, once they got here, was to give a grand purpose
to their reproduction. They were to take part in an
endlessly expanding society and proudly contribute
their strapping sons to the conquest of the frontier.
I do not accept that this was ever a good idea. The
frontier got along just fine without all of us for eons
and centuries, and I think it's highly doubtful that
we've improved anything. But, even if it could be
considered justifiable to have populated those empty
spaces, we as a society just stopped looking at the
reality while it turned itself inside out. The frontier
which had seemed to us to be asking for reproduction
quietly disappeared. And we went on reproducing.
We became an industrialized nation that fragmented
people into job functions and made the closeness that
had knit the large pioneer family together impossible.
And we went on having large families.
After industrialization, though, we didn't really
need all those babies, by any stretch of the imagina-
tion. So we had no choice but to change the babies'
We began to display them, as an item for show, an
accoutrement, a status symbol. We began to think of
them as decorative rather than functional, as luxuri-
ous creatures to be handled carefully and indulged
thoroughly. (Yes, of course I'm generalizing; but
there's some truth to this, really.)
The effects of the shift in the role of children is not
good. If our own babies are our own accoutrements,
if we regard them as extensions of our own desires,
we, if we are personally selfish, can be led to consider
their comfort paramount and neglect the welfare of
the total community.
Rustum and Delia Roy, in their book, Honest Sex,
". . . the gross selfishness in our culture that
encourages the sentiment that charity begins at
home, and secures that charity by providing noble
phrases such as, 'It's your duty to your children,'
and 'The family comes first.' The family ends up
as a veritable sponge, sopping up any loving
concern which might reach the world outside ..."
And Martha Weinman Lear, in The Child Worship-
pers, gives a specific example:
"From Brooklyn, word comes of a courageous
loner who quit the PTA because the girls refused
to broaden their horizons . . . T told them we
couldn't help ourselves unless we helped others,'
she said. 'I told them, we need a new school. Ten
blocks away they need a new school, too. Now
why don't we think about this and examine our
needs and theirs and see where it is really needed
more? And they jumped on me and yelled, 'What
do you mean, needed more? Our children come
And on the NBC news August 6, 1970, there was a
story. A group of white citizens had blocked an
integration plan in Detroit. They were happy. "We've
won a victory for our children," one said.
Do you know any people who think that way- -who
think, "Well, as long as my children can grow up in a
nice suburb, the inner city can hang?" Or, "As long as
my kids have a summer place with clean air, I won't
worry if my plants pollute downstate?" Extreme
examples, yes. (And hopefully outnumbered by those
who see, along with that loner from Brooklyn, that
we can't help ourselves unless we help others, too.)
But babies and children, especially our own, can
make us lose sight of the community as a whole.
They can also obviate our own self- value; they can
make us lose sight of our own worth as adult men and
women. I have an article on my desk right now; it's
from the May, 1970 Redbook, I think.
The first sentence of the article reads, "Seldom do
people other than saints, doctors, and mothers get to
participate in a miracle." A man wrote that, a man
who evidently regards childbirth as the only miracle
around. I think that man must be wearing emotional
blinders. There are lots of miracles a woman can
experience because she's a woman, not because she
becomes a mother. There are miracles that men who
are not obstetricians can be a part of. What about
lovemaking? Doesn't that count? What about other
human relationships? Don't they count?
Seemingly not. We're shown in many other ways,
too, that only children (nothing else, certainly not us)
are special. That's the idea of the calendars my
laundry sends out: babies on every page. That's the
idea of a bank billboard outside Pittsburgh; urging
you to save, "For Life's Special Moments," it shows a
newborn baby. And there's a book about the years of
early childhood, The Magic Years, it's called. By
implication, no other years hold any magic. By
implication, we as adults become special or valuable
only by associating ourselves with breeding and chil-
The emphasis on childbearing is so pervasive — and
yet, as Nathaniel Branden points out, so anti-sexual—
that it's almost as though there's something anti-
sexual about our culture.
Though much has been written about the sexual
revolution, it seems that from the very first, our
culture looks forward to driving a wedge between a
satisfied man and woman, or boy and girl, through
children. From the very first, girls are told, "Here,
help with the baby." And boys are told, "Be careful.
Stay away. You'll hurt the baby." Thus, once that
little boy and girl grow up and their own baby is
born, male and female roles are sure to separate. And
communication, sex, and love between the two will
dim. We can see how this has happened by a casual
glance'at some of the patterns of marriage in the last
1) The man and woman married, had children.
The husband left. This pattern is common in the
inner city; and it's not a happy one. The men on
"Tally's Corner" who have left their families are
probably not happy. They are, at best, freed of
being reminded that they have fathered children
they cannot support. The women develop a
"Men's nothing but trouble: better off without
them" attitude. And they have enough to do to
keep them busy, keep them from thinking. But
you have to wonder. Do they know where their
men are? Would they like to know what they are
doing? Did they feel anything was lost when the
man left? Surely there was a loss. And I am not
thinking of what the children lost, though of
course this is a valid concern, but of what the
2) The man and woman married, had children.
The husband came home only to sleep. The
woman raised the children. And where are these
man— the factory workers and their cronies? With
other women? At the games, the races, the bowl-
ing alleys, the bars? And why? And are these
women angered or hurt by the continual absence
of their husbands? "Well, I keep company with
the other women around here, you know. We've
all got enough to talk about. We've got the kids to
talk about, you know . . ."
3) The man and woman married, had children.
The husband took business trips and had affairs;
the woman raised the children. Occasionally, the
affairs ripened, and there were divorces. The
husband got a romantic re-lease on life when he
married his girlfriend. The former wife continued
with the task of raising the children and may or
may not have remarried.
4) The man and woman married, had children.
They stayed together. They were faithful, but
they were obviously unhappy. To the wife, the
days were drudgery. Resenting this, she became
sexually unresponsive. Because of this, her hus-
band began to criticize: the way she kept the
house, the way she raised the children. Their
quarrels became more frequent and more bitter
but finally gave way to an uncaring silence.
5) The man and woman married, had children,
stayed together, were faithful, seemed happy. The
two went to PTA meetings together and to church
together with the children. There were occasional
evenings out, vacations alone. At family reunions,
the father played "My son— your son" games with
the other men as they drank. He and his wife did
not fight often. Neighbors said, "Such a lovely
couple; such a happy family." And it seemed so.
The first three patterns are well documented by
social agencies and the divorce courts. The fourth and
fifth are familiar, too. Visiting the homes of friends,
we saw both types.
That fifth pattern is the most subtle and it is the
predominant one— the one selected by the media for
magnification, anyway— the one that has become our
cultural ideal. And there seems nothing wrong. The
parents of this type did not divorce, did not have
outside affairs. They smiled and seemed to take a lot
of pride in their offspring. They seemed content.
They were parents, and they showed no indication of
wanting more than that.
They raised their children to become what they
wished they had been, occupationally, and to become
exactly what they were, in life style. They assumed
that their children would marry and have their own
families. The fact that this was assumed— that no
options were examined— might suggest either that the
idea was very natural or that it was very weak.
A career psychologist now with Johns Hopkins
University told me, "The more avidly a man wants his
son to repeat his own profession, the more apt the
man is to have failed at that profession, at least on his
own terms. If he had considered himself a success, on
the other hand, he'd have no need to relive his own
rise through the profession vicariously. He'd be more
apt to leave the career decision pretty much to his
A rather interesting thought. If you fail, you want
to see someone else (an extension of yourself) suc-
ceed where you failed.
Two psychologists (Lois Hoffman, Frederick Wyatt)
have a theory that is close to this one. Parents who
have failed to raise their first-born well, they say, will
have more children, as they try to soothe their guilt
about not doing a good job with the first child by
trying to do a better job with later children.
If you haven't made something work, try it again.
If the entire family structure did not seem satis-
fying, let the kids try it. Maybe next time around
they'll make it work.
There is, throughout the patterns of marriage out-
lined, a suggestion of male retreat from the family,
and yet mother and father are anxious for their
children to repeat the pattern. Might there be an
element of defensive self-justification involved? Who
finds it easy to admit even a small mistake? How
much more difficult it would be to admit that one's
entire life may have been a disappointment, a failure,
a retreat from rich possibilities into routine. Who
could admit to his own children that he might have
wished for more spontaneity, change, and variety
than his life had held? Who could tell his own
children that he wishes his children had not come so
soon; that he wishes he had had fewer children; that
he wonders what life would have been like without
family responsibilities at all?
"If I had it to do over again," is men's room talk. It
is a rare statement for one generation to make to
another. We, that next generation, can do it over
again, in the place of our parents, and we can do it
differently. And parents, in some cases, may be
slightly envious of that fact. Or, still feeling the need
to guide us (because their whole life has been spent in
that attempt) but not knowing what else to guide us
to, they come back to the "Live as we did" idea. The
pose is maintained. We raised a family and were
happy; we want you to do the same.
Were they happy? This is the question. The fact
that they stayed together is no proof of that. Look at
the men who stay at jobs they don't like, who live in
cities that they hate. They stay, because change
requires courage and involves risk.
Though these couples seemed satisfied, they may
have simply lived without asking what they were
living for, without wondering if it would make any
difference whether they had lived or died. They lived
in patterns: birthdays, anniversaries, religious holi-
days, get the paycheck, errands, vacations, pay the
bills, retirement, disintegration.
These are the values we inherit. But, like hand-me-
down clothes from an older sibling, they may not suit
us. We as men and women today are more restive,
more demanding of satisfaction, more given to im-
pulse, less likely by far to react well to the restric-
tions of family life, more attuned to spontaneity,
excitement, breakthrough. If we do not recognize
these things about our emotional nature, we may find
the 1970's passing us by, as we live in our suburbs in
a pale imitation of the 1940's-McCa//'s-togetherness
lifestyle. We have no obligation to do that; we do not
have to live the life of the previous generation over
again. We can find our own way.
But there is more to our cultural heritage than just
the previous generation. There is the role of religion.
The marriage manuals, particularly the Catholic ones,
tell us, "You should want children," and continue
with such a hard-sell approach about the sanctity of
the family and the ultimate value and joy of raising
souls for God . . . that one wonders: are they afraid
that without such strong pleas, their couples might
wise up and have no children?
Religious and parental expectations have added up
to many an unhappy young Catholic wife. For her,
particularly, there was never any question. Over and
over I was told, "I just always thought when I grew
up I'd have children. It just never occurred to me that
Our tax and welfare laws also play their part. A
$650 tax exemption certainly underscores society's
general attitude about the desirability of children.
And while an increased Aid to Dependent Children
allowance seems the poorest of reasons for producing
children, it is reason enough for many women.
There are proposed changes. As Paul Ehrlich sees it,
$600 should be added to a family's taxable income
for each of the first two children, and $1200 added
for every child beyond two. There is also an idea that
the government should pay women $500 for each
year that they do not have children, and I intend to
go out and campaign for that as soon as I finish
writing this book.
But these are ideas of the future. Meanwhile, the
outmoded structure continues to wield its influence.
"Somebody sure must want me to have kids," a social
worker reports a woman on welfare as saying. "They
keep payin' me to have 'em."
At other levels of society, too, it seems like the
government wants women to "have 'em." Housing
and Urban Development gives money to people who
want to buy homes. The larger the family, the larger
the subsidy. There are some restrictions, but basically
that's the way it works. That plan not only forces
taxpayers to contribute money to bail irresponsible
baby-breeders out of their partially self-created finan-
cial difficulties; it also encourages those who receive
money from H.U.D. to remain poor. There's a provi-
sion that if a recipient begins to earn above a certain
level, the family loses some or all of the subsidy.
What are we doing by offering such a plan? (Do we
think there's still a frontier out there?) On the one
hand, we're encouraging a poor man to have a large
family, in spite of a small income. On the other hand,
we're discouraging any of his efforts to help himself
by raising his income.
And one wife, whose husband works for the Civil
Service Commission, complains that they discriminate
against childless couples. The health insurance pol-
icies offered, it seems, have a fixed charge for fam-
ilies, no matter what the family size. Small families
thus pay more than their share of the cost of the
insurance. "Why?" this woman asked Edward G.
Borchers, a civil servant at the CSC.
"If the plan were tailored to individuals insured,"
he explained, "the premium, for some, would neces-
sarily be so high as to preclude many people from any
insurance." In other words, the only way large fam-
ilies can afford insurance is by having small families
help pay for it, right?
Does that make sense? Obviously, these are ex-
amples of outmoded and wrong policies, but potent
But perhaps the most potent cultural force leading
to childbearing is the mere fact that most other
people have children, and so constitute the norm.
Friends who have children can produce a lot of
pressure, simply because they seem to talk about
little else. One girl, eight months pregnant, said, "It
just seemed simpler. Sooner or later, the conversation
would get back to grasping, toddling, and cooing.
And I was isolated. When I finally got pregnant last
fall, I was one of the bunch. But I'll admit I'm
apprehensive. I don't think I wanted this, and this
isn't going to be the end. There's an entire status
thing here, with the women who've had two children
lording it over those who have one. And the women
who've had more than two have their own special
clique. It's a real trap . . ."
One might well be apprehensive about children,
especially in large quantities. According to Ted J.
Rakstis, writing for the American Medical Association
in a Today's Health article last year, "big" and
"happy" are easily contradictory terms when used to
describe family size. The authors of The Mirages of
Marriage concur. They call the ideal of the large
"poor, shoeless and smiling" happy family a myth.
"Recent research suggests that the parents of five or
more children who so proudly point to their huge
brood may be putting on an act," the authors flatly
state. And a psychiatrist for the National Institute of
Mental Health, Dr. James Lieberman, has found that
mental illness increases in proportion to the number
of children in a family. (He also found out some
other scary things: like child-beating and other such
traits occur very frequently in large families.)
And yet, some absolutely goofy literature succeed-
ed in promoting that large-family image as classic
Cheaper by the Dozen is as good an example as any.
"The hilarious adventures of twelve wonderful red-
headed rascals," is how most people got the message.
The film Yours, Mine, and Ours combined two
broken marriages and hordes of children, to which
were added more: "Ours."
And then there's Never Too Late, a charming play
which furthers the myth that links fatherhood and
masculinity. "There's life in the old boy yet," goes
one line in, I think, Act III.
Actually, the desire of an older man to have a child
is usually an attempt to cover up for the failing of his
sexual powers; it is far from a real expression of
sexual power. And no professional person would
pretend that Cheaper by the Dozen makes any sense,
psychologically. Reproduction on that scale is closer
to a state of pathology than a state of health,
according to more than one psychiatrist. In other
words, it's sick. Yet there the book was, for years,
existing as a kind of classic, and as a most unfortu-
nate cultural model.
There have been plays and novels that have some
recognized psychological validity; but they are gener-
ally lesser known. The Pumpkin Eater, by Penelope
Mortimer, is one. In the play, three characters— Jake,
his wife, and the wife's psychiatrist— discuss her re-
curring pregnancies in the following scenes:
JAKE: (to his wife) About me? You don't give a
damn about me, and you know it . . . You don't
care about me, all you care about is the bills being
paid and the bloody children, that great bloody
army of children that I'm supposed to support
and work my guts out for, so I can't even take a
bath in peace, I can't eat a bloody meal without
them whining and slobbering all over the table, I
can't even go to bed with you without one of
them comes barging in the middle. If you cared
about me, you'd try to understand this . . .
In a later scene, the psychiatrist tries to help the wife:
DOCTOR: Do you think it would be wrong not to
WIFE: I don't know. Yes, yes I think so.
WIFE: Because children don't do you any harm.
DOCTOR: Not directly perhaps, but indirectly . . .
And you have ... a remarkable number. You
seem upset that your husband doesn't want more.
This hardly sounds like someone who likes chil-
dren ... It sounds more of ... an obsession . . .
Children can do harm, emotionally. But this is only
pointed out in obscure corners of the culture.
How many women, after all, read medical studies in
the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic that link parent-
hood and mental illness?
How many women read the Ladies' Home Journal
How many people read The Pumpkin Eater?
How many people read Cheaper by the Dozen ?
And children can do harm, ecologically. The realiza-
tion of this is new, however; changes in our thinking
are made slowly- Trying to see what future attitudes
should be, by looking ahead through the window, we
can be caught instead by what is reflected in the
rear-view mirror. There, again, are all the cultural
expectations of the past, following us and affecting
our present attitudes.
There is what Mrs. Jutta Hagner of the University of
Maryland calls a pioneer or "cowboy complex," a
persisting attitude that we can produce children
endlessly since there is endless land "out West." Many
ecologists speak regretfully of this pioneer view of
Nature as something to be conquered and subdued by
producing an increasing population. For a long time
we have listened to this myth that says "Conquer!
Produce!" And we have conquered and destroyed the
land. But what we really need to conquer lies un-
touched within ourselves. And we do breed; we do in
that sense, produce. But what we really should
produce are ways to view life, our own life, and
achieve some sense of joy within it.
Our thinking must change, since we have reached
the end of our war with Nature and the end of the
land's resources. Dr. Eugene Odum, as quoted in
Gene Marine's book, America the Raped, states
simply, "The War is over. We've won. We know that
nature is defeated now before the advance of man . . .
"But," he continues, "when we defeat an adversary
in battle, do we simply go on killing and slaughtering?
Of course not."
And, when the battle is won, do we still call up
more troops to aid in the killing? Of course not. As
with a defeated nation, left with few of her resources,
we should help Nature, realizing that we must live
with her, and that we need her to live. And we must
call off the fresh ranks of despoiling troops.
And yet incredible and threatening images from the
rearview mirror persist. (The Family of the Year has
nine children; the Mother of the Year has five.) "The
Mother of the Year," pleads Paul Ehrlich, "should be
a sterilized woman with two adopted children." (A
cowboy politician says, "The U.S. could conceivably
support twice as many people as we've got.")
Even assuming that cowboy's statement to be true
(it isn't; we haven't got the resources), if something
isn't done, we're going to have twice as many people
in thirty years. What then? What happens after we
have dumped a Manhattan into Arizona and un-
leashed our bulldozers to bury the few as yet un-
spoiled areas of this once-beautiful country? What
then? Not only will there be, finally, no more land;
there will just as finally be no water suitable for
drinking, no air that can be breathed.
Children, in the aggregate as well as in the specific,
can harm, can destroy: because they grow up to be
us, and there are too many of us.
Still, the cultural forces roll jollily on, unchecked
("Mayor Proudly Points to Rising Birth Rate") spew-
ing their mythological messages like pollutants into
the air: Conquer! Produce!
THE TRAP OF
YOUR OWN FEELINGS
"Since in our culture, motherhood is widely be-
lieved to be the ultimate fulfillment, an unhappy
girl is driven in that direction."
— Wenda W. Morrone,
March, 1970 Glamour magazine
As that quote hints, I'm going to be examining some
little-examined motives for motherhood in this chap-
ter; unhappiness is one. And I'm going to do some-
thing that is, at least partly, patently biased and
unfair. I'm going to impugn a lot of girls' motives for
having children; and I'm going to aim wide and very
probably hit some innocent targets. But that, after
all, is what society has been doing for decades to girls
who haven't had children. Writers, doctors, priests,
society in general have viewed with suspicion the girl
who didn't want to go through the birth bit. They've
viewed her as though there were something selfish,
immoral, or wrong about her choice to remain child-
Now, you're not going to like this approach. / don t
like it either. But at least, by putting the shoe on the
other foot (yours?) we'll both know how it feels.
First, let's talk about some common feelings that
are assumed to lead to childbearing:
1) Girls want babies because it is "natural" to
2) Girls have babies because they like children.
3) Girls have babies because they want to fulfill
None of those statements is fully true. In a highly
complex, artificial, industrial, and urban society, little
is "natural" (we wear shoes; we dial telephones), and
this includes feelings, interpersonal behavior, and
emotions, as Desmond Morris has pointed out in The
Besides, attitudes about sex and babies vary so
much from country to country, and from one cen-
tury to another, that it seems more likely these
attitudes come from culture, not Nature.
That our attitude toward motherhood here, in this
century, has become adulatory to an unprecedented
degree— and that this attitude seems to be changing as
more women forego maternity— may in itself argue
that the desire for motherhood cannot be all that
Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture; Ashley Mon-
tagu's Man in Process, Kate Millett's Sexual Politics,
and many of Margaret Mead's works have emphasized
imprinting, early learning through language or cultur-
al tradition in the learning of sex roles. Their conclu-
sions seem to be that sex roles are learned and not the
result of instinct.
Now, motherhood differs from other sex roles in
that a girl does not have to "learn" to bear a child, as
she learns to care for children or to please a man . Yet
there are aspects of the sex role involved in mother-
hood: child-raising and maternal-conduct codes, for
example, as well as the propriety of childbearing at
certain times, at a certain age. And it is part of our
culture's learned feminine sex role to want a child.
And I don't think this fact can be discounted. The
cultural code could conceivably reinforce an instinc-
tive desire for childbearing, certainly. But, if an
instinct is such, then it must be universal; and the
desire for parenthood just is not. There are those who
reject the parental role; and, just as significantly,
there are those who are ambivalent toward it. If you
are one of those with strong positive feelings about
maternity, do not simply attribute your attitude to
In a paper called, "A Paradigm for the Analysis of
Childbearing Motivations," Mark Flapan, Ph.D., Co-
lumbia University, wrote, ". . . childbearing motiva-
tions involve a consteallation of socially defined and
idiosyncratic meanings, some of which may not be
recognized by the individual . . ." (Emphasis mine.)
Further, he states, "No quasibiological entity which
may be hypothesized as existing within the individu-
al, such as a maternal instinct or drive, can account
for motivations for childbearing."
If the desire to reproduce does not result from
instinct, does it at least result from love? When a
woman wants a baby, is it because she loves her
husband or wants to fulfill her marriage?
Well, I know that's the idea we've always accepted:
you love a man; you want to create a being that
embodies that love. But when an ideal love situation
exists, is a baby necessary? Perhaps not. A couple
truly in love may need no child to embody that love:
they themselves embody it.
As Lila, a friend of mine from Houston, explains,
"My biggest objection to our having children is that
there's no one in the world who will deny that the
husband-wife relationship is changed when there are
children. I happen to cherish my relationship with
Tom more than anything else in the world; so why
should we change it?"
Why indeed? If you are greatly in love with a man,
you can just plain live your love together, every day
and every night, and you do not feel the need to
change or improve the situation (the euphemism is
"fulfill") by having a baby. Change can, of course,
represent a desire for growth in a positive sense. It
can also be compensatory in nature, implying dissatis-
faction with what exists.
A baby, therefore, can't be assumed to symbolize a
perfect love between man and woman.
And there are many women who have babies who
do not have the slightest love for children. The
woman may, instead, love herself, and want an
extension of herself to love. Such a feeling may be
healthy, or it may be unhealthy. If a woman feels
strongly that no other children could possibly do for
her to love and care for— if the children must be hers
and no one else's— then this desire is ego-centered and
may approach narcissism. It does not suggest "love of
children" very strongly, that's for sure. If such a
woman loved children, wouldn't she be out caring for
children, or teaching?
If, in addition, this woman is eager to showcase
herself during the process of child-production, this
display can be taken as further indication of self-love,
not love of children. There is a lot of vanity involved
in such a woman's pregnancy, as she continually
draws attention to her own body:
"Oh, Harry, just look at my stomach!"
"Ooh, just look— I'm starting to showl"
"Am I too big in the tummy for these slacks now?"
"Harry, could you loosen the seat belt another inch
"Ooh, Harry, I think I felt something!"
This behavior, in some women, speaks of more than
a normal interest in the physical process of preg-
nancy. Their pregnancy becomes their vehicle of
vanity, their way of focusing attention on themselves
(but too often without any corresponding deepened
knowledge or growth of the self). Their "Look at
me!" games are just that: games.
Besides the "Look at me!" games, they have their
"Care for me!" ploys. Friends, and particularly the
husband, are expected to wonder if the pregnant
woman would like some strawberries, would be more
comfortable with a pillow. Now, gynecologists will
tell you that there is no physical reason for a
pregnant woman's capricious cravings for strawber-
ries, pickles, pillows, maple-crunch ice cream at mid-
night. These desires are attention-getting devices.
Isn't the mere fact of pregnancy enough to "atten-
tion-get?" No, because the woman realizes that she is
no longer attractive, within the frame of reference her
husband is used to. Many pregnant wives are haunted
by fears that their husbands will be sexually attracted
to a still-slender girl before the nine months are over.
(Their husbands sometimes are.)
The little needs are an attempt to draw husband
close. If a woman feels weak or faint, she makes him
feel protective. If she feels an urge for maple-crunch
ice cream, she involves him with this unique experi-
ence. If she does not feel able to go to that office
picnic after all, she does two things: 1) she reminds
him again of her delicate condition; 2) she keeps him
away from the office picnic, where he might see all
the slender secretaries in their cute sports clothes.
Of course, a totally secure girl or woman would not
rely on these games. But then, the fact that the games
are so common only points up that very few secure
girls, who are sure of themselves and their femininity,
It's the insecure ones who do.
Three researchers, Lerner, Raskin, and Davis, re-
ported in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis
(48:288-297, if you want to look it up) that a woman
may use pregnancy to gratify infantile needs for
affection; to try to strengthen a poor identity of
herself as a woman, to reassure a weak or insecure
Besides a basic, underlying insecurity or selfishness,
other factors may be involved in pregnancy. The baby
may be intended as a kind of coverup. A baby, to
many women is a symbol, like a wedding ring or a
nice house. What the baby will symbolize or indicate,
these women hope, is that all is well with them and
their husbands— that they have a successful marriage,
a successful sex relationship. ("See, we did it!") But,
like many symbols, it can tell a lie about what it is
supposed to symbolize.
Question: Is the Cadillac really a hallmark of suc-
cess? Or might it be the mark of a man who has not
succeeded and so must make everyone think so?
Question: Is the woman who gives all those parties
really well-liked socially? Or might she, just possibly,
have no social life at all without the parties?
Question: Is the woman who wants a baby— maybe,
just maybe— trying to prove something, something
that is not true?
Might she doubt her femininity, her sexuality?
(Pregnant teenagers, according to social workers, find
little pleasure in the sex act itself.) If she doubts her
femininity or sexuality, is this not a way to establish
Many teenage girls find pregnancy appealing for this
reason, especially teenage girls who find themselves
going through a period of reasonless, crushing un-
popularity, or, in the case of Irene, a 16-year-old I
recently interviewed in a home for unwed mothers
near this city, a total inability to relate to her peers.
(I'm going into Irene's interview, by the way, not just
because it's very interesting, but because it does have
relevance to the emotions of adult gals who get
"Were you happy at school, Irene?" was the first
thing I asked her.
"Not much, I guess."
"Was there somebody you didn't like?"
"There wasn't anybody I did like."
"Was there— were there any people you might have
wanted to like?"
"No, Oh, well, I don't know. I guess I wouldn't
have minded getting along with the kids in my
homeroom. But I just couldn't get into what they
were always talking about ..."
". . . which was what?"
"Did you date?"
"Yeh, but not the way they did."
"Did they go to different places?"
"Yeh. I mean, when I'd get a guy to ask me out,
we'd just like— go out, you know. The two of us. The
others seemed to go all together. And like you said
they went to different places."
"Did you have sex with most of the guys who took
"Did you take pills or anything?"
"No, but I knew when it was safe. I mean, I read,
and you can find out all that."
"How did you happen to get pregnant, then?"
(Laugh.) "It wasn't safe then, I guess."
"Did you want to be pregnant and have a baby?"
"I don't know. I didn't think about it."
"Did you care if the kids in your class knew you
"No, I didn't care. I mean, I don't care what they
think. In fact, I told a couple of kids after gym class.
I figured if they didn't like it, so what? I didn't care
what they thought."
"But you did want them to know about it, right?"
"Not necessarily. I didn't even care whether they
knew or not; or what they thought if they did
"Who was it that you told?"
"Two girls, Drea and Cathy."
"What did they say?"
"They got real upset about it. It was really funny."
"Well, I said, you know, 'Guess what?' And after
they talked around for a few minutes, I said, 'Hey,
guess what? I'm going to have a baby.' And they got
real upset, like I said, and Cathy said, 'Oh my god!
How did it happen?' and then we all started to laugh
at that— how did it happen, you know; well, it's
pretty obvious how! And Drea said, 'Are you sure?'
and all that, and then she said, 'Who?' and I said, 'I'll
never tell . . .' and made them keep on guessing. But
even when they guessed who it was I didn't let on. I
wouldn't have told them for anything."
Irene told about that last scene with some relish.
She opened up for the only time during the half hour
or so that I talked to her. It seemed pretty plain that
she had wanted the kids at school to know she was
pregnant. She wanted the sudden scandal of "Irene's
going to have a babyl" Remember, Irene was not
popular. This pregnancy seemed like implicit proof
of, if not popularity, at least success with one boy. It
was, she admitted, an improvement on her situation.
She had been drifting, rather unhappily. Suddenly,
something had happened: an instant drama, starring
Did Irene want a baby? No, although some girls in
her position do. Feeling loveless and with nothing to
love, they want an infant, since it is something of
their own to kiss, cuddle, care for, without fear of
betrayal. But, according to Irene, "I don't have any
particular feeling about it (the baby). They can do
whatever they think's best with it." She hadn't
wanted the baby and all that responsibility. She
simply wanted a status symbol— one that symbolized
sex— and the pregnancy was it.
It's not uncommon. Ghislaine Godenne of Johns
Hopkins Hospital wrote in a recent paper, "I have
seen many girls for whom pregnancy was a status
symbol and not a disgrace." Girls assigned to Balti-
more's school for unwed mothers often brag about it.
("I'm going to School # 1— and Jim's the reason
why.") Besides instant attention, the pregnancy can
offer a way out of social or school situation that isn't
satisfying to them.
I talked to another girl, two years older than Irene,
but with similar problems of social acceptance. She
felt she wanted to keep the child when it was born.
Two psychiatric caseworkers (Marcel Heiman and
Esther G. Levitt) might have been writing about this
second girl, Norma, when they wrote:
"... the motivation for pregnancy (can be) to
find a replacement for a lost love object, either to
ward off depression or to counteract a depression.
Regressively ... a woman re-creates for herself an
object. Since these objects . . . are a substitute for
the mother and since the woman has undergone a
regression in order to create out of herself this
object, the baby, it becomes clear that . . . the
mother is not the mother and the baby is not a
baby. The very reverse is the case because the
baby that has been created is a replacement for
mother; thus the mother is the baby and the baby
is the mother." (American Journal of Orthopsy-
chiatry, XXX, 1960.)
Norma's mother had raised her and seven brothers
and sisters. Although she was a bit nervous, Norma
had been considered a promising student by most of
her teachers. As she began eleventh grade, though, her
mother changed jobs and met a man she really
wanted. They'd go to North Carolina and live for a
year, he said, and see how things worked out; but he
didn't want the children along. The children were
packed posthaste to an aunt who lived in another part
of Baltimore. Norma became pregnant soon after-
wards. ("The baby that has been created is a replace-
ment for mother; the mother is the baby . . .")
Now, that neat role reversal may seem a bit too pat.
And you may be getting tired of the occasional
psychological jargon. But there is something of truth
there, and if I quote psychiatrists and such, it's just to
show that the whole idea of pregnancy as feminine
inadequacy isn't just my own little theory. Other
people agree. People who study the human mind.
And they should know.
Rollo May should know.
In his best-seller Love and Will he quotes Kenneth
Clark regarding mores of the lower-class Negro girl.
The marginal Negro female, according to Clark, uses
sex to gain personal affirmation. She is desired; and
that is almost enough. Beyond that, however, she will
have a child, as a symbol that she is a woman.
Dr. May adds to this: The struggle to prove one's
identity and personal worth through pregnancy may
be more outspoken in lower-class girls; but— it is just
as present in middle-class girls who can cover it up
better by skillful social behavior.
And of course he's right about middle-class motives
for reproduction. They're similar to the motives of
Irene and Norma. I have a friend, now twenty-seven,
who was brought up in a wealthy middle-class suburb
of Chicago. Thinking back to her teen-age years, she
said, "There were times, twice that I recall definitely,
when I really, desperately wanted to become preg-
nant. Both times, I had just broken up with a
boyfriend and . . . needed somehow to prove myself,
I guess. Thank God I didn't," she added. But— the
motive was there.
Rubin and Gertrude Blanck, in Marriage and Person-
al Development, discuss a married woman who is
similar to Norma. "I just love the idea of a baby
growing inside me . . ." this woman told them; "I feel
so incomplete ... I have nothing." Norma's attempt
to explain her pregnancy echoed these words exactly:
"I just had nothing; I wanted to have something."
The same dynamics do operate in the middle class,
though they are not well recognized. In fact, hasn't a
typical middle-class attitude been condescending to-
ward the breeding habits of the lower classes ("She
might as well get pregnant and drop out of school;
she can't do anything else, anyway") without seeing a
similar pattern in itself?
We who are, by economic definition, "middle
class," have a few fewer children. We wait a bit
longer. We cover the compensatory motive, as Dr.
May said, with skillful social behavior, perhaps. But
when we finally do bear children, we, too, may
inwardly be trying to prove our identity and personal
worth. Underscoring this is the fact that many ade-
quate, emotionally confident, healthily sexual girls
simply are not attracted to pregnancy. "Who needs
it?" is their attitude. But many of us, in every class of
society, who fail to prove our sexual identity or
personal worth in life often attempt to prove the
same by reproduction.
Dr. May has his own case history of this. He spoke
of a divorced girl, well educated, in her early thirties,
and a successful editor in a large publishing house.
She "obviously was not the slightest deficient in
knowledge of sex and contraception."
Nevertheless, after her divorce, she twice became
"Now it is absurd," Dr. May writes, "to think we
can understand this behavior on the basis of 'sexual
needs.' Indeed the fact that she did not feel sexual
desire was actually more influential in leading her
into the pregnancies ... she became pregnant . . .
to compensate for her feelings of emotional pov-
erty . . ."
I think we've always recognized pregnancy as an
attempt to prove femininity when dealing with the
unmarried mother. In Parade magazine (November
20, 1966), Lloyd Shearer wrote:
"Girls who become pregnant out of wedlock,
from whatever stratum of society they come, have
in common one factor: they are nearly always
emotionally immature and frustrated personalities
who have failed to form satisfactory social, per-
sonal, and family relationships . . . Contrary to
what might be imagined, the unwed mother is
usually shy, withdrawn . . . lacking in self-confi-
Florence Clotheri, in a 1943 American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry, seconds the motion:
"Unmarried motherhood in our culture represents
a distorted and unrealistic way out of inner
difficulties and is thus comparable to neurotic
And Louise Trout, in a 1956 Child Welfare magazine,
"We recognize unmarried motherhood as a symp-
tom of a more pervading personality disturbance."
And, in discussing case studies of illegitimately preg-
nant women, John Loesch and N. H. Greenberg wrote
in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (July,
"We found with striking regularity evidence of
significant alteration in the lives of these unmar-
ried women just prior to conception. In general,
these alterations fell into the category of losses,
involving such events as the death of a parent,
some other significant relative, or the loss of a
boyfriend . . ."
Once more, I want to make the point that the idea
of pregnancy as a result of feelings of inadequacy is
not just my idea. Now, there is an extension of those
viewpoints that I'll take the responsibility for. You
may wonder why I'm giving all these assessments of
the motives of unmarried girls who are having illegiti-
mate babies. Again, it is because we are the same way.
Take the words "unmarried" or "unwed" out of the
viewpoints above, and you still have statements with
some degree of validity.
Of course, I would like to expand our concept of
the word "illegitimate" in the first place. To my view
a baby isn't "legitimate" just because the parents are
married. If a baby is conceived for the wrong reasons
(selfishness, immaturity, insecurity, to name a few)
then that baby is illegitimate, whether born in or out
of marriage. And many children of married couples
result from wrong reasons. The emotional dynamics
that produce a pregnancy don't automatically be-
come different just because of a slip of paper, a
"Immature and frustrated personalities . . . who
have failed to form satisfactory social, personal, and
family relationships?" Lots of girls meeting that
description have wedding rings— and babies. A girl I
know named Gina quit teaching last year when she
became pregnant. Why? The job was too much of a
struggle; disciplining her classes was becoming diffi-
cult; she couldn't get along with the other teachers.
Rather than talking this out with her husband and
examining alternatives (a new job; a different school;
a change in her personality or attitude) she simply
became pregnant, thinking this was the simplest
excuse for quitting.
"An unrealistic way out of inner difficulties?" Yes,
an inner difficulty such as not being able to face your
feelings. This seems hard to believe in this era of
sexual freedom and all that, but a marriage counselor
in San Francisco assured me that many wives still feel
some distaste for the sex act. A baby can actually be
their way of avoiding sex. They "don't feel well
enough tonight, darling," during pregnancy; they're
too "busy" or too "tired" after the baby arrives.
"Significant losses ..." A loss of a boyfriend was a
reason for pregnancy mentioned by Loesch and
Greenberg. Actually, they went on to say that even
the threatened loss of something in a girl's life is
sufficient to cause depression and trigger a pregnancy.
Maybe a wife fears that she may lose her husband's
interest, that there isn't enough substance to the
relationship without the commitment of a family.
And, just as an unmarried woman may get pregnant
hoping to get her man to marry her, a married woman
may become pregnant hoping to manipulate her
husband into staying with her. (Incidentally, this does
not work. If there isn't enough substance to the
relationship, you have to enrich the relationship
itself, not toss in a child and hope for magic. If you
have to resort to pregnancy to keep a guy, you've lost
him. He may marry you for a while; he may stay with
your for a while. But you've lost him.)
A college friend of mine tried to keep her husband's
interest by becoming pregnant. Marie dropped her
senior courses when she married Jim; she worked for
a while, until his parents offered to subsidize the rest
of his graduate study. She thought she'd wait one
semester before taking up classes again. That was one
semester too long. She didn't have the inner resources
to keep herself interesting. She felt out of touch with
the campus; she didn't have much in common any
more with their friends— or with Jim. ("We just didn't
have anything to say to each other any more.") At
the same time, his law courses were becoming more
demanding, and Marie felt neglected. She became
Jim was upset. He was angry that she would make
such a crucial decision on her own; and he felt that
his parents should not have to pay for a grandchild
along with his law-school expenses. Marie would have
liked for him to quit school then and act like a
husband by supporting them. She became more and
more withdrawn and resentful, and the baby did
nothing to unify the marriage. They were divorced
shortly after the child was born.
If a girl has a baby to try to make up for a lack in
the relationship, or to bridge a communication gap,
the hoped-for re-establishment of closeness usually
doesn't happen. When roles are completely separate,
closeness is rare.
The closest and most successful student marriages,
according to Lillian Borgeson, a New York writer
who studied this last year, are the ones where both
partners are able to stay in school— in the same world,
with the same interests. If you do that (share his
interests; know his friends; discuss his classes; be a
part of what he's doing) you will grow together, not
apart. That compensatory (and divisive) retreat into
the maternity ward won't be necessary; there will be
no "loss" to compensate for.
If you have any doubts about that, I think I'd like
to tell you about Lila and Tom Prager. They're in
Houston, Texas, both getting Ph.D.'s in psychology.
(He has a fellowship from the National Science
Foundation, she from the American Association of
University Women) and . . .
"This business of being in the same field is one of
the reasons we are so happy with each other," Lila
told me. "We understand all too well the pressures
the other is under. So when I'm surly because the
hypothesis on which I've based a paper turns out to
be wrong, Tom is right there with me, offering
sympathy of exactly the right kind, and— ever bet-
ter—suggestions as to how to get out of the bind I'm
in. This has a double advantage of keeping us close
and of making us better psychologists in the profes-
sional sense. I also love the advantage I have at
parties; I can wife-talk with the wives, or I can
shop-talk with their husbands. One of the minor
When I asked her to describe what they sometimes
talk about in the evenings, there was no keeping up
with her. "Well, last night was rare, because we were
home; and we go out for dinner often, usually the
Night Hawk or someplace else close to the library.
But last night we discussed our itinerary from here to
London next month. We do some traveling under
these grants we have, for comparative studies, always
with a ton of tape recorders and books. Then I tried
out the arguments I was writing up in the paper I
turned in this morning; Tom kind of smiled and said
it was hard for him to find counter-arguments against
vague arguments, so we worked together to sharpen
up what I was trying to say. Then we got to talking
about the causes of aggression. Tom explained to me
his latest theory, which sounded good; then he talked
about some cases his theory couldn't handle; and we
ditched the work about eleven, made some coffee and
put on a 'Committee' record . . ."
Tom and Lila have been married since 1965, by the
way; and I mean married.
You know the funny, relaxed kinds of conversa-
tions you have just when a relationship is really
starting to mean something? Tom and Lila still have
them . . .
You know the way a guy who really has a girl on his
mind buys her things that are really her and not just
candy-and-flowers tokens? Tom still does . . . ("Urn-
hmm. He buys me, oh, things like 18th-century lute
music; and Rainbath; and, once in a while, like when
I came back from a field trip last month, a singie rose;
and subscriptions to my favorite magazines, even
though I could use the ones in the library just as well;
and posters for my study area; and copies of my
favorite statues from museums; and the Springbok
jigsaw puzzle of a Breughel print we bought on our
honeymoon; and . . . and . . . and . . ."
I've mentioned Lila's reason for not wanting chil-
dren before— and it should be even more obvious
now. They have something valuable and wonderful, as
There is simply no need for children.
I seem to have been talking just about college wives.
But many wives, on Main Street and in suburbia as
well as in the married-student housing projects, try to
use pregnancy to regain their husbands' interest. This
ploy should be obvious if we look at just when the
children come to a marriage (after one year; or two)
and at just what has happened to the marriage at that
Typically, the initial novelty of the marriage has
ended. The "getting started" projects like decorating
the house or apartment are completed. The surface
romanticism has tarnished a bit (he talks to other girls
at parties; they don't always cuddle when listening to
records at home any more; they haven't been out to
dinner in a month; they have had an argument about
laundry). And the intense intimacy of lovemaking has
perhaps begun a descent into the routine. The honey-
moon, in short, is over.
At this point, a wife has a choice. She can initiate a
deeper, more personal and real relationship with her
husband; she can enrich their relationship by drawing
them both toward the world outside; she can stimu-
late her own personality, again by outside contacts,
so that she is a person continually changing, continu-
ally new and valuable to herself, and to him; she can
stimulate variety in lovemaking; she can find out
what the challenge of being a married female is all
about: keeping a man interested, by being interesting,
even after he's used to her.
Or, she can have kids.
That's not a perfect dichotomy of the path forward;
but it's not an invalid one, either. And I guess there's
no doubt about which I think is the better way. Being
a part of the real, adult world is my choice.
To me, retreating to a plastic, womblike, mini-world
(a city apartment, a suburban house) there to repro-
duce myself amidst the Glo-Coat and the Endust just
doesn't make it. I don't think that retreat does much
to further an exciting or meaningful feminine person-
ality. If it did, more husbands would go home more
eagerly to their wives, for there would be something
new for them to discover.
Some husbands who have children do go home
eagerly, of course. (But some do not.) Some, husbands
and wives decide to have children because they prefer
a network of loving relationships to a single love. (But
in many families conflict predominates over love.)
And husbands and wives without children can sur-
round themselves with a network of loving relation-
ships, too; but those relationships are not restricted
by four walls.
Children, according to Dr. Helene Zagier of Mont-
hey, Switzerland, may not strain a healthy marriage;
but neither are they necessary to enrich a healthy
marriage. A marriage becomes enriched or enfeebled
by its role in the total ambiance of the world around
it. If you think you need a child as enrichment,
seriously ask yourself if your own resources may be
One husband, multi-married and divorced (he was in
his fifth marriage when I talked to him), had come to
this conclusion: "When I see that my wife is thinking
about kids, it's a sure sign to me that something's
wrong. It's almost a woman's way of punishing
herself and me, by tying us both down." (Pregnancy
as self-punishment? Maybe, maybe.)
"You know," the man continued, "it's almost as
though pregnancy is a way some women reject men. I
remember thinking this with my last wife. All she
wanted to do was talk about pregnancy, read books
about pregnancy, go to movies and plays about
pregnancy. But what about my interests? This really
dawned on me when she insisted we go to see the
movie Jenny. Terrible movie. Maybe what put me off
was seeing the ad on the way in. The blurb said, 'It
doesn't matter who the father is: Jenny finally has
someone to love.' Can you imagine that? It doesn't
matter who the father is . . . Now, isn't that rejecting
According to Dr. Sanford Wolf of Baltimore, quite
possibly. "With some women, the response is almost
spiderlike. They have their young; they drive the man
You probably think I'm being extreme in dredging
out these negative theories about motives for preg-
nancies. But I haven't even mentioned the most
extreme theories I ran across. (I found five articles,
for instance, on a woman's desire for a "penis baby."
I left that one alone because I don't know what they
mean by that— whether a woman supposedly wants a
penis, or intercourse— and it doesn't make any sense
to me no matter what it means. My pregnant girl-
friends have always had their problems, but 1 don't
think they had penis envy.) And the March, 1970
Glamour magazine outined, among recognized mo-
tives for pregnancy "a desire for suicide!"
Now, I don't know about that, either. At least, I
don't think you can take it in a literal sense. Preg-
nancy can be a withdrawal from certain areas of life,
of course. Far from being life-giving, it can be
life-denying: denying future options to both the man
and the woman. Therefore, its effects on a woman
and her marriage could be, well, suicidal. There may
be women who sense that their husbands will not
react well to fatherhood. Pregnancy may be their way
of denying a future together.
Pregnancy can also be a distress signal: "Help!
Something's wrong with our marriage, Bob! I felt the
need to make a drastic change."
But certainly you can be more flexible and more
creative about making changes when you are not
pregnant. Any woman who sees pregnancy as therapy
for a sick marriage might better suggest a trip to
Europe— or to Esalen— and seduce her husband into
that idea. It will cost a fraction of what a child costs.
Now, money might seem like rather a mundane and
unworthy consideration, if you're feeling like you
want to have a baby. But we do live in a material
society; and we've learned to want a good life,
materially. If a child comes into conflict with the
level of living you and your husband want, what will
the result be? Sacrifice with joy? Or resentment at
deprivation? The plain fact is that most people today
simply cannot afford children; if a woman wants
children despite that fact, she may be asking for
According to the federal Commission on Population
Growth and the American Future, it costs the average
family anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 to raise
two children and send them through college.
For a mother with only a grade-school education,
the total cost of raising two children— including lost
job opportunities— adds up to an estimated $120,000.
But for a woman with a college education (and
therefore better earning prospects) the loss figure can
By the way, even after adjusting for inflation, the
costs per year of raising a child rise about 30-45/J
between the first year and the eighteenth. Women
who blithely have children "as a way out" will be in
for a surprise in about eight years or so, as their
husbands struggle to make ends meet (unless these
women are CPA's and have taken into account age-
dependent cost increases as well as inflationary in-
Personal experiences the two of you share, on the
other hand, continually increase in value— and are a
better way out, because they are also a way to an
extension of your self -discovery. Children should be,
too. But they are such a sine qua non of everybody's
life that the ways to raise them have been rigidly
prescribed, and there is little room for flexibility. At
least it can be said there is less flexibility than is
easily available for a couple.
Keep that in mind if you feel at some point that
you want to have a baby. There are many feelings—
about yourself, your husband or boyfriend, your
marriage or love affair— that can lead to a desire for
pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of these feelings are
negative. (You don't feel loved; your guy is not
paying enough attention to you; your relationship
with him is slipping.) And, just as unfortunately,
pregnancy is not curative.
Perhaps the most common underlying motive for
pregnancy is a desire to establish or heighten your
femininity. But it won't. You will feel "special" and
be treated solicitously during pregnancy. But solici-
tousness on the part of a man is not the same as love.
And there's an unwholesome falsity of expectation
among many pregnant women that that special treat-
ment will continue after the child is born. But it
Mothers— maternal figures-are less, not more, ap-
pealing. If you don't think that, just try, for a
minute, to put yourself in your man's place. Which
girl would he find more alluring: the 25-year-old
housewife at home with two kids, a bridge club, and
an electric oven, who shuttles in her station wagon
between the school and the shopping center? Or the
25-year-old secretary at his office who flips around to
business luncheons, political meetings, fashion shows,
chic shops, and art openings?
Read the next chapter before you answer that.
HUSBANDS AND BABIES
"The male animal . . . really has very little interest
in watching his young grow up, unless he's having
a marvelous time with the female who provided
him with the young. Often, by the time the young
have grown up, he has another female who also is
giving him a marvelous time and more young to
grow up. Sometimes he's very clever or very lucky
and gets a female who doesn't have any young at
"Then he's much happier altogether."
Marriage Is the First Step Toward Divorce
Let's consider that possibility, shall we? That a man
just might be "much happier altogether" if you— his
female— did not produce any young.
Larry Muir, a Seattle scientist, is happier that way.
Though he's been married for seven years, he and his
wife, Ellen, are closer than many newlyweds. At a
pool party they attended here before leaving for
Seattle, they spent most of the evening talking just to
David Lowry, an officer of Nexus Corporation, has
been married for fifteen years; his wife has no
children. I met him one day on Eastern's New
York— Washington shuttle. He had several days of
business in New York, but was commuting daily,
since his wife hadn't been able to go with him. That
just might indicate a man who's very happy with his
home life, and it is a refreshing contrast to the
escapist husband who would have booked a room at
the St. Moritz and a table at Sardi's for after-five
And a Minneapolis lawyer, married for ten years
and with no children, says about his wife, "My only
complaint is that I have to leave her in the mornings."
How many stories would you like?
I could easily give you fifty. But they are not fifty
stories, they are one story told fifty times— and the
story is this: a wife who has no children to preoccupy
her time and attention can give that time and atten-
tion to her husband. She is more of an attentive
companion and a loving woman than a mother-of-
two-or-three has time to be. And her husband thrives
on this attention.
Nearly every man wants this kind of attention from
a woman. I don't think many men have enthusiasm at
the prospect of offspring. As psychologist Helena
Lopata has pointed out, men regard neither father-
hood nor husbandhood as their chief roles in life and
are rather easily annoyed by the inconveniences of
Commonly, the way a husband explains the deci-
sion to have children is, "Well, it seemed about time,
I guess." And many men make it clear that it was
their wife who wanted the children, not they. ("Well,
I thought if it would make her happy, give her
something to do, then it would be good;" or "I didn't
feel ready. In fact I was really reluctant, but she was
so emotional about wanting a child . . .")
Things like that are what husbands say. Typically.
And at times the responses get a great deal less
enthusiastic than that. The adult male, it would seem,
who has a clear and confident grasp on the world and
on his life wants to live that life himself, rather than
spend most of it "watching his young grow up." In
the opinion of one therapist, "Women talk their
husbands into having children far too often."
Now, there are husbands who want their wives to
stay home, be "domestic," have children. In the
opinion of the same therapist, "Such a husband is
either not very wise, or inwardly he does not love his
wife very much. Let's look at such a situation in real
terms. He wants her confined to the home, while he is
out in the world of work. He gives her limited and
routine tasks while he is out growing, learning, creat-
ing, being challenged and stimulated by conditions of
competition within his field. He is, by asking for such
a situation, creating marital incompatibility: first, in
terms of conversation; then sexually. And there is
virtually no way around that. Such a husband, in
long-range subconscious terms, is aiming toward the
dissolution of his marriage, denying future possibil-
ities of relating to his wife as a companion. These
men, you see, do not feel comfortable with emotional
closeness and intimacy. This is their way out."
Not always are such subtle motives operating, of
course. Probably, most husbands who do take the
initiative in saying, "Time for a family," are express-
ing a simple feeling; they want children to add to, or
give point to, their marriage. And this is a genuine
feeling, on a conscious level at least. But you still
have to remember that your husband, like you, has
undergone a process of continual baby-bombardment
(or young-son bombardment, via the insurance, cloth-
ing, and sports equipment ads). He has been affected
by the same incessant cultural prods as you. Thus, his
expressed desire is quite apt to be a simple acceptance
of this cultural conditioning and not a deep, real,
If his marriage is losing its lustre, the idea of adding
a child to that marriage may have appeal. The idea of
it, mind you. Count on it: he has no idea of the
realities involved. In fact, when the realities come,
most men don't like them.
Redbook magazine, in one issue, admits that while a
woman's feelings about her newborn have been care-
fully documented, "Less widely known is the feeling
of responsibility that seems to settle on some men
like a rain cloud."
"The night feedings will disturb your sleep, and the
crying will get on your nerves," a cheery passage from
The Expectant Father advises. "Your meals may not
be ready on time, and they may not be as elaborate
or as well-prepared as they used to be. The house may
not be as tidy or as quiet as it was when there were
two of you. Finally, and this is the hardest fact for
many husbands to accept, you are no longer the sole
object of your wife's love and attention . . . You will
have occasional moments when you'll feel that you
made a mistake in starting the entire thing."
"Occasional moments!" stormed the father of two-
year-old twins when I read that passage to him.
"Occasional moments when I wish we hadn't had
them?" He shook his head and seemed at a loss for
words. "It was the worst mistake of my entire life. I
should have known better, but I agreed to it. I'll have
to say this— at least Betty didn't trick me, and I know
plenty of guys whose wives have done that. But the
effect is all the same, I guess. All the things I wanted
to do while I was still young enough to enjoy them.
Well, there's just no chance now. No time. And no
"I used to break my neck getting home," a taxi
driver in Dallas told me. "I knew just how to get
every green light and make it home in fifteen minutes
flat after my shift. We'd have a beer; we'd put the
steaks on; we'd talk about the kooks that turned up
that day. She used to always worry I'd get mugged,
you know? And we'd watch TV, go to the neighbors!
or go to this bar a few blocks away for a nightcap and
dance. This bar's a real friendly place; used to be like
a real family. When I'd got a lot of money, I'd buy
everybody in the place a drink. Other times, they'd
do the same for us. It was great. All the guys thought
I had the greatest wife around. Now, I get home to a
kid screaming, and a wife who doesn't notice if I've
come in the door or not half the time, she's that busy
with the kid. I take the longest way around I can
Are these men 's reactions typical?
Well, there's a study by Dr. E. E. LeMasters, and the
fact that the study is titled "Parenthood as Crisis"
should be a clue. If you'd like a statistic, 83% of the
new fathers he interviewed reported "extensive" or
"severe" crises in their home situations.
New fathers were disturbed by the loss of sleep and
the fact that their routines were upset; by the
unforeseen financial complications of parenthood
(how many couples really are aware that the purchas-
ing power of the average employee with a wife and
dependents goes down each year?); by the need to
give up social activities and fun, particularly the
spontaneous sort, which most men value. Fathers
were seriously bothered by the decline in the sexual
excitement of the marriage. There was noted a gener-
al disenchantment with the parental role, and, by
implication, a disenchantment, too, with the marital
Another study by Arthur P. Jacoby in the Novem-
ber, 1969 Journal of Marriage and the Family, indi-
cated that 87% of new parents were disturbed rather
than pleased with the changed family situation.
This isn't the happy poppa image given out by the
It may not even be apparent, to the casual observer
of the new father, that he is unhappy. His reactions
of disappointment will take place within the privacy
of his own mind; he will not express them openly.
After all, following nine months of emotional build-
up and expectation, any statement of, "I don't like
all this," would not be tolerated.
Instead, there's almost always an initial elation on
the part of the father. There's the ceremonial passing
around of the cigars, the exhibit of Polaroid shots and
paternal pride, and the joviality of many postpartum
ceremonies which really serve to give attention to him
as the new baby's father.
But the natal novelty and the euphoria connected
with it finis fast. Then comes the letdown, the crisis
that LeMasters and Jacoby and others have described.
And the older the child, the more problems admitted
by the father, report several counselors. This crisis, by
the way, involves far more than just little annoyances
like the baby crying or the house being untidy. The
raising of children, most marriage counselors feel,
challenges marital happiness in profound ways.
home life, and it is a refreshing contrast to the
escapist husband who would have booked a room at
the St. Moritz and a table at Sardi's for after-five
And a Minneapolis lawyer, married for ten years
and with no children, says about his wife, "My only
complaint is that I have to leave her in the mornings."
How many stories would you like?
I could easily give you fifty. But they are not fifty
stories, they are one story told fifty times— and the
story is this: a wife who has no children to preoccupy
her time and attention can give that time and atten-
tion to her husband. She is more of an attentive
companion and a loving woman than a mother-of-
two-or-three has time to be. And her husband thrives
on this attention.
Nearly every man wants this kind of attention from
a woman. I don't think many men have enthusiasm at
the prospect of offspring. As psychologist Helena
Lopata has pointed out, men regard neither father-
hood nor husbandhood as their chief roles in life and
are rather easily annoyed by the inconveniences of
Commonly, the way a husband explains the deci-
sion to have children is, "Well, it seemed about time,
I guess." And many men make it clear that it was
, their wife who wanted the children, not they. ("Well,
' I thought if it would make her happy, give her
something to do, then it would be good;" or "I didn't
feel ready. In fact I was really reluctant, but she was
so emotional about wanting a child . . .")
Things like that are what husbands say. Typically.
And at times the responses get a great deal less
enthusiastic than that, The adult male, it would seem,
who has a clear and confident grasp on the world and
on his life wants to live that life himself, rather than
spend most of it "watching his young grow up." In
the opinion of one therapist, "Women talk their
husbands into having children far too often."
Now, there are husbands who want their wives to
stay home, be "domestic," have children. In the
opinion of the same therapist, "Such a husband is
either not very wise, or inwardly he does not love his
wife very much. Let's look at such a situation in real
terms. He wants her confined to the home, while he is
out in the world of work. He gives her limited and
routine tasks while he is out growing, learning, creat-
ing, being challenged and stimulated by conditions of
competition within his field. He is, by asking for such
a situation, creating marital incompatibility: first, in
terms of conversation; then sexually. And there is
virtually no way around that. Such a husband, in
long-range subconscious terms, is aiming toward the
dissolution of his marriage, denying future possibil-
ities of relating to his wife as a companion. These
men, you see, do not feel comfortable with emotional
closeness and intimacy. This is their way out."
Not always are such subtle motives operating, of
course. Probably, most husbands who do take the
initiative in saying, "Time for a family," are express-
ing a simple feeling; they want children to add to, or
give point to, their marriage. And this is a genuine
feeling, v on a conscious level at least. But you still
have to remember that your husband, like you, has
undergone a process of continual baby-bombardment
(or young-son bombardment, via the insurance, cloth-
ing, and sports equipment ads). He has been affected
by the same incessant cultural prods as you. Thus, his
expressed desire is quite apt to be a simple acceptance
of this cultural conditioning and not a deep, real,
If his marriage is losing its lustre, the idea of adding
a child to that marriage may have appeal. The idea of
it, mind you. Count on it: he has no idea of the
realities involved. In fact, when the realities come,
most men don't like them.
Redbook magazine, in one issue, admits that while a
woman's feelings about her newborn have been care-
fully documented, "Less widely known is the feeling
of responsibility that seems to settle on some men
like a rain cloud."
"The night feedings will disturb your sleep, and the
crying will get on your nerves," a cheery passage from
The Expectant Father advises. "Your meals may not
If fathering children establishes or satisfies a man's
need for male self-assertion, why do all those Latin
American men (who father lots of children) have
mistresses? The Latin American man has another
distinctive trait, too: close ties to mother.
"Mama and the mistress, those are the main points
of conflict," one Buenos Aires wife told David Bel-
nap, in a Los Angeles Times interview. Mr. Belnap
reports, later in that May 6, 1970, article, that "Latin
men have social lives apart from their wives. . . .
These involve any number of pursuits carried out
with cronies and consuming a large part of the time
. . ." What are some of these pursuits? A priest work-
ing in Peru estimated that 80% of the men in the aver-
age middle-class parish have permanent or semi-
So it would seem that fatherhood, if it has a role in
proving masculinity, is not in itself sufficient to do
so. The mistress is necessary, after a time, because a
man is judged (and self-judged) "masculine" accord-
ing to the desirability of the woman he sleeps with.
After giving birth to many children, the Latin Ameri-
can man's wife usually is not attractive enough to
cause other men to think, "Roderigo must be a real
man to have her." To prompt this response from his
comrades, Roderigo must search out a younger, more
attractive and more sexually desirable woman.
It's basically the same here, isn't it?
After a while the American male, too, begins to feel
he'd like a cute, young sexual ego prop. And parent-
hood can be the crisis which precipitates his search
for one. Parenthood can be the trap that makes a man
feel enclosed, stifled. "It signals a man's loss of
freedom, the final and firm hold of responsibility on
him," says a marriage counselor of thirty years
Time passes. The children's needs increase, and so
do husband-wife conflicts over money, with the wife
typically implying that more money is needed. She
may start, seeing herself mainly in the role of con-
sumer, thanks to all those clever advertisers we
mentioned before. The "good mother" is the mother
who has a newly-decorated playroom for Junior, new
clothes and toys— all the earmarks.
It can be quite an economic strain on Father.
The authors of The Expectant Father, cited earlier,
seem to realize this; but they're quite cheerful about
"Take a deep breath and try to estimate what your
child will cost you," they say. "The additional costs
for the child may make it necessary to adjust your-
selves to a different standard of living. This must be
done as a result of a frank discussion between you
and your wife. In any discussion of financial readjust-
ment, remember that the baby is worth any sacrifices
that you may be forced to make ... Of course you
may be envious or resentful of your neighbor or
relative who has so many more material things than
you can afford. Don't be tempted to compete . . ."
"... the baby is worth any sacrifices ..."
That's easy to say.
And, to some men, a baby may be worth any
sacrifice. Some men are willing to regard the relative
affluence of early marriage as a phase. After a while,
they're ready to provide for someone else, and, if a
child comes into conflict with "the good life" they
previously led, they'll give up that previous standard
of living with little or no resentment.
But there are other men— and they are more numer-
ous—who find great satisfaction in the sense of
personal power that comes from being able to buy
whatever they want. They want their good Scotch,
stereo, vacations. They want a bright young thing on
their arm (that's you) and that's that. Try to pin this
sort of man down to a tight budget so that the kids
can have everything from kiddie toys to college
savings plans while he gives up his pleasures— and
you've got trouble.
Sexual and economic stresses can begin to interact,
in a complex and destructive pattern. There starts to
be conflict over money. Given this conflict, some
wives start to spend more than ever out of a dis-
appointment that this man who was once so gen-
erous with them (when he could afford to be!) is
generous no longer. Another motive for wifely over-
spending can be sexual frustration. Sex life common-
ly declines after children are born. Some merchan-
disers view consumerism as directly related to sexual
deprivation, with the "shopping trip" being almost an
analog for the sex act— as the wife makes up for not
being given love by spending her husband's money.
("If women were ever sexually satisfied," Mary Quant
has said, "all of us designers might go right out of
business. Consumerism, as we know it, would be in
The wife's attempt, though, to find some sort of
solace by spending actually only hurts the marriage
further. She pushes her husband further into debt,
hurting his feelings of economic adequacy. If a man
feels inadequate as a provider, he may also become
less adequate as a sex partner, and not just because of
pre-bedtime comments like, "How can we pay the
bills?" either. The treadmill of debt can lead to a
general sense of masculine depression that's not the
same thing as a feeling of sexy virility. And, continu-
ing a vicious cycle, the wife experiences sexual disap-
pointment again— and again compensates by spending.
That's one common pattern of marital breakdown;
there are others. Some families just quietly resign
themselves to relative poverty, and accept the fact
that they can't afford much, not for themselves,
anyway. I'd like to quote extensively from a Life
magazine profile of the Mrak family, of Cleveland:
"It was 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and the
temperature in Brookpark was 94 degrees," begins
the article. "Frank Mrak and his wife were sitting at
their dining room table, sorting grocery coupons
which Mrs. Mrak had been clipping from the news-
papers all week.
"Their four children waited in the living room: a
boy, Fran, 16; and girls Susan, 13; Mary Pat, 8; and
Karen, 7. 'Ground beef is going to be our big buy of
the day,' Frank Mrak said, 'We might get 30 or 40
pounds . . .'
"Every Saturday at 3 p.m., the Mraks go shopping.
There are five grocery stores in five different shop-
ping centers within fourteen minutes of their house.
Most Saturdays, they visit each one. Sometimes they
must hurry to finish by the 6 p.m. closing time, but
by waiting until late in the afternoon, Frank Mrak is
able to take advantage of sudden, unadvertised mark-
downs made by store managers . . . especially in the
produce department, where the goods will not keep
until Monday. With a monthly budget that allows
$150 for mortgage, $15 for entertainment and $150
for food, it is these bonuses, these unexpected wind-
falls, that are the highlights of the Mraks' weekend;
indeed, sometimes of their week.
" 'Tell about the bread at Kroger's,' Mrs. Mrak said."
And, in this report, Frank Mrak then smiled and
proceeded to recount in detail the lucky chain of
circumstances which, on Saturday, had saved him
$3.42 on twenty-eight loaves of bread.
"Their lack is more than money," commented Joe
' McGinness, who wrote this article for Life.
They also lack experience— the wide varieties of
experience that give life its richness. "These bonuses
are the highlights of their week . . ." And of their
" 'Sometimes it breaks your heart,' Mrs. Mrak said.
'A & P had a special on liver . . . but the children just
won't eat it . . .' " The shopping trip seems the
measure of the entire dimension of their lives (I have
measured out my life in grocery coupons) and of
their emotional existence. Joy is a bargain on bread;
heartbreak is passing up a special on liver. I think that
is why that article was so very painful for me to read.
Every human being has the emotional capacity to
respond to much greater things than bread and liver.
Joy goes far, far beyond a supermarket. Heartbreak-
well, if my heart is going to be broken, it will be
because my love is in crisis, or because the spring had
very little sunshine this year, or because Czechoslo-
vakia was invaded. It is a waste of human emotion to
be that concerned about the price of bread. No one
should have to be.
And yet so many families live within budgets so
tight as to squeeze all joy out of life. I met a man in
La Jolla, California, whose life is much like the
Mraks'. He's a safety engineer who works a full
weekly shift at the San Diego airport. He also does
tax work for a CPA and drives a cab four nights a
week. He's not happy.
"Five kids is more than anybody should have! If we
had two kids, I wouldn't have to hustle at all these
jobs and you'd better believe that would make me
very happy. And if we didn't have any kids, we'd be
living like kings, like the supervisor Larry and his wife
There are beaches in La Jolla (beaches "too good to
be true," according to Holiday magazine writer Chan-
dler Brossard). This man and his wife never go to
A police officer in Benton Harbor, Michigan; a
Manhattan elevator operator; a Denver accountant; an
exhausted machinist who ingeniously courts overtime
at a depressed Boeing company plant in Seattle— how
many stories would you like of men who have "no
time left for myself" due to job, extra jobs, overtime
hours, because of family expenses? Do these hus-
bands and wives have the leisure to enjoy each other?
Oh, but this has no relevance to us, you may be
thinking. We're middle class. We earn almost $11,000
a year. We have credit cards. Children wouldn't be
such an economic burden that we couldn't enjoy life.
With time payments, we can afford just about any-
But how do those time payments make a man feel?
Unless he's crazy about his work, he feels like a
"servant" in two senses: employee for the boss,
wage-slave for the home. That double-servant role can
get kind of oppressive. Tied down with time pay-
ments, a man isn't free to have an impulse. And
where, after all, is it going to end? When your
husband's salary increases a year from now? Think
A financial corporation has a bright ad. "Relief for
the financially indigent," is its headline. And that ad
is meant for the middle class. Shown are husband,
wife, small child in red jumpsuit, baby in arms.
"You know them," the ad reads. "The young
family men with one or two kids. And one or two
mortgages. They need life insurance. But looking
after their families' welfare could put them on wel-
fare. The life insurance they'll be able to afford at
thirty-five, they need at twenty-five. Continental
Assurance has a plan that lets the young wage earner
have the permanent cash-value protection he needs
right now. But lets him pay for it later. At first he
pays about half the normal premium. In ten years he
reaches the final level . . ." (emphasis mine).
In other words, as his wages grow, they are eaten up
not only by various inflations, taxes, hidden cost
increases, family expenses, but increases in life-insur-
ance payments, too. Now, do you really want your
husband tied to ever-increasing, in-case-of -death pay-
ments of that sort when he should be enjoying life,
and you, instead?
There are subtler aspects, too, to the economic
burden of supporting a family. Some increased job
tensions may be directly related to children.
"I'd better watch my step, I can't let anything
happen to my job now; I really need every paycheck
now," can be an inhibiting feeling for a man to carry
with him through the work week.
That feeling can even reduce a man's chances of
getting the raises that are critical to his self-esteem. I
talked recently at lunch with a New York copywriter,
who had just asked for, and gotten, a $3,000 annual
raise. "How did you bargain for that?" I wanted to
"There was no bargaining to it. They knew if I
didn't get it, I'd simply walk off and go somewhere
else. I don't care if I don't work for a month, or six
months. I know what my work is worth; and if my
agency wants to keep me, they'll have to pay for
what it's worth.
"Of course," he went on, "it's not that easy for
everybody. Elaine and I could get by, with our
savings and her salary, for some time. But there's a
guy in our office who's stuck at half my salary right
now, because he can't make demands like I can. His
wife doesn't work; he's got three kids, so they know
he's not about to walk out and take his chances on
the street. They know they've got him. So, he doesn't
ask for the raises, and he doesn't get them. Too bad,
too, because he's just as good a writer as I am, and if
he believed in himself a little more, he could get a
better job. But he's afraid to take the risk."
I want to pose another question. What if the
following assignment were given to those two copy-
"Our largest client, The X Corporation, has been
under public attack for polluting the city's air. Write
a campaign that will convince the public the company
is doing something about the problem." Both men
might ask, "Listen, are they really doing anything?"
What if the answer were, "No, they're really not; this
is just a p.r. job." Both men might think, "In that
case, I won't touch that assignment with a ten-foot
pole and to hell with anybody who tries to make me,
agency or client." Which of the two would have the
courage to speak his mind?
What effect does it have on a man if he can't say
what he thinks at his job because he needs every
paycheck too desperately? What happens to a man
who has to suppress or abandon his ideals?
I'll tell you what happened to a man I'll call
Kenneth Dolan, who worked, years ago, at a minimal
salary for the American Civil Liberties Union in
Columbia, South Carolina. Looking back, he says, "I
was on fire during those years. Life had so much
purpose and meaning that I used to pity everybody I
knew who just worked for a salary, who just worked
at any job without believing in it. It was inconceiv-
able to me that anybody could live without this kind
of involvement. It uses you up completely, and yet it
makes more of you all the time. I even pitied people
who went to the movies, the concerts. What a waste
of time; what pathetic shadows of life they were
seeing; I was living it!"
He talked for maybe an hour, steadily.
But Ken Dolan doesn't talk much about the job he
has now. He's now an architect for a land developer
in Atlanta. Seems when his wife became pregnant,
they had a long talk. ("Or I should say she had a long
talk. I was so stunned I couldn't even think.") She
had been very patient, she said, but he was wasting
himself and getting no reward for it. Look at the
shabby apartment they lived in. But that wasn't the
point. It was all very well, his wanting to help people.
But he'd done enough. Now, with the baby coming,
he should get a job with more money— and one that
wasn't involved in controversy. She didn't want her
baby's father's name on some sheriff's list.
They live in a nice house in Atlanta now.
Another crusader forced to abandon a crusade
before beginning it is a close friend of ours, a young
law student who wanted to join Ralph Nader's inves-
tigations immediately after graduation. In fact, he
had applied to work with a team researching land
practices in California. Ron was a keen, competitive
guy, very turned on to what was wrong all over, very
eager to get to work and change it. By graduation,
though, his wife, also a law student, was pregnant.
Working out of Nader's Center for Responsive Law
he'ii not have gotten much of a salary, just expenses.
So that wouldn't work.
Ron is not working for Ralph Nader. He is working
for Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation.
Parenthood can be a crisis involving more than the
"disturbance of routine" and other inconveniences
that Professor LeMasters' study turned up. R. H.
Gardner, a writer for the Baltimore Sun, put it on the
line in one of his columns: "How many young men's
dreams," he asked, "have been sacrificed to the need
for a modern kitchen, separate bedrooms for the
children, and an education at the college of their
choice?" How many? Would anybody like to count?
Children don't always force abandonment of ideals.
But it can happen.
Family burdens can also cause trouble in simpler,
more tangible ways. An engineer at a G.E. plant near
here was laid off. No savings. He applied at once to
two other large companies in the Baltimore area.
Surveying his former salary ($16,000) and his family
status (four children) one company was generous
enough to offer him $11,000. They knew he would
go to work for that, because he needed a paycheck-
soon. We're acquainted with the personnel manager
of that company, and I asked him about it. "It might
seem pretty heartless," he said, "but actually we
figure we're doing him a favor taking him on, when
we could hire somebody without his experience for
$1,000 less. And he'll have a chance to work his way
up here, in just a few years ..."
"No," he answered my next question, "he hasn't
accepted yet, and I can understand his feelings. He
thinks if he can just hang on for a month, he'll find
something like the sixteen he was making before. I
doubt that he could, but in any case he can't wait
that long, not with all those kids. I really expect him
to be in to work this week."
Then there was the loan officer of a Boston bank
who, after the birth of his child, managed to get
himself fired, because he was so suddenly shaken by
the mounting expenses and responsibilities. "The
only way we can make ends meet, with Louise not
working," he told a friend of mine, "is for me to
really make progress here at the bank. I'm really
sweating it, but I'm acting the image, you know? Just
watch the new Me— dynamic, full of authority."
Not too long after that, the bank manager told the
same friend of mine, "We let Ben go. Really dis-
appointed me; he was one of our best employees.
Really well-liked by everybody. Nice, clean-cut young
man. Very good employee. But something came over
him. Hard to say, but it's as though he read a book
called How to Climb the Corporate Ladder and
started overstepping his authority, trying to tell me
how the other loan officers were doing things wrong,
really stepped on a lot of people's feelings.
"And then there was the question of salary. Now I
know his wife has had to quit work, but Ben knew
our scale of raises here; and the salary he started
insisting he was worth . . . was just not in line with
our policy. We couldn't have made an exception."
Not many men lose their jobs in that way, as a
direct result of having a child. But many men with
children do, at some time, lose a job, or have
difficulty supporting their family. That's never an
easy situation, and it is, in fact, a situation some men
will simply walk away from. "And the more children
a man has, the easier it is for him to walk away,"
explained a Pittsburgh welfare worker. "Seems that
way, anyway: with more children, there's less sense
of obligation; the more children there are, the less
each one means. It's no accident, in my opinion, that
the ghetto areas have the largest numbers of children
per family, and the highest rate of desertion. Of
course, economics is involved, too. A man looks at all
those children and realizes not only that he can't care
for them all but that there's no way he can support
them all. So he leaves— leaves them to us."
Desertion by the father isn't limited to the ghetto.
It's still basically a question of earning power and
demands on that earning power. "Desertion goes up
when the factories lay off," said the same counselor,
"but even without that you'll have a certain percent-
age of, say, factory workers who just walk away every
year. When a guy gets to a point where he can't buy
the guys he works with a round of beers on payday
without the wife screaming, 'Where's the rest of the
money? The kids need this and this and this,' that's
when he takes off. That's when he decides, 'To heck
with his family business!' "
When annual income is above $12,000, desertion is
called divorce, because husband and wife can afford a
certain legal minuet. But the reasons are the same. I
asked a friend of mine, a lawyer in Minnesota, "What
is the most usual reason men have for filing for
divorce? What does a husband typically say when he
comes to you?"
"Easy question. Ninety percent of the time, they
say they haven't slept with their wife in two
Other divorce lawyers generally agreed. Oh, one
didn't. "Children don't have much to do with wheth-
er a marriage breaks up. The breakups are over money
and sex, not children," he said.
I think he was missing the point. Another lawyer
(this man from Norfolk, Virginia) agreed, but put the
matter in perspective: "The greatest areas of marital
conflict are undoubtedly sexual and economic," he
said, "but the presence of children can actually
produce or catalyze the conflict."
Does sex always decline after children are born, and
perhaps begin that economic spiral of overspend we
talked about earlier?
"Yes, I think it's inevitable that sex declines after
children," said one. "Well, I'll put it this way: I've
never seen a case where it got better," said another.
"Your total romance picture declines, and so your
sex life is going to go downhill, too, since men are
conditioned to be sexually stimulated within a ro-
mantic context," went a third comment, in a later
interview that same day.
Dr. Rustum Roy, mentioned previously, feels that
the main reason for this decline is the simple matter
of increased demands on a wife's time and attention.
The wife knows she's got to get up in four hours to
feed the baby; she's miserably tired from working
around the house all day in an unaccustomed sched-
ule; she's out of sorts; she has a headache and has just
got to get some sleep. Not the sort of wife to pop
into a tangerine negligee and lure her man into
"Why start anything? The kid will just cry," is the
way husbands begin to feel. As a British husband who
had just left his wife explained to me, "There were—
few occasions when we could be free of the babies'
needs. There were fewer occasions of sex, it was as
simple as that. And therefore there were fewer occa-
sions when everything went right and was fulfilling.
This led to some trouble in other ways. It was simply
not the same. It was not the marriage I had bargained
for; she was not the wife she had been before, not
responsive to me ..."
In the LeMasters study, a major complaint of the
husbands interviewed was: lack of responsiveness on
the part of their wives.
"Well, the men can complain about lack of respon-
siveness all they want," in the opinion of one Freu-
dian psychiatrist. "It's somewhat of a cop-out to say
that. It's really a matter also of lack of attraction to
the wife, once she becomes a mother. A man's sexual
response to a mother figure— well, let's say it's often
ambivalent at best."
And Virginia Satir, formerly director of Esalen at
Big Sur, California, explained a common pattern of
infidelity: "When the wife becomes a mother, the
man may seek competition, as he did when he was
younger and broke away from his own mother, by
looking for a girlfriend. "
I think there's very definitely a change in image
when a girl becomes a mother, and I think it has to
affect a man's sexual response. In our culture, boys
grow up learning that you sleep with young girls, not
A friend of mine (two children) got very angry at
this suggestion. "Mature men want something more
than just a swinging chick!" she insisted.
Her husband was with her at the time; and he
neither reinforced nor denied her point.
I wish there were some statistics on this. I'm not
very fond of statistics, but this one I think would be
interesting. Are men who have children more apt to
look for sex outside of marriage? Maybe there are
some figures, and I just wasn't clever or thorough
enough to find them. But I did look, and although I
found infidelity linked to such things as parents'
religion and age at onset of puberty, there was
nothing about infidelity and family size, or compara-
tive infidelity of childless husbands and fathers.
A counselor of many years experience at American
Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles did
venture an opinion: "With greater numbers of chil-
dren, you experience greater economic and emotional
strain," he said. "Therefore, you have greater possibil-
ity for conflict; therefore, you have greater need of
ego satisfaction. And with increased diminution (that
was his phrase, really!) of the wife's attention to the
husband, the husband might seek an alternate source
of ego satisfaction."
Condensing that: Yes, the father just might go
looking for another woman.
Then, too, there's the bare fact that a husband with
children very often has more opportunities for sex
outside of marriage. His wife is with him less.
"I had to go to Chicago for a week, and I thought
maybe we could make a vacation out of it. But my
wife didn't think we should take the kids out of
school for a week, and she didn't want to leave them
with her folks for some damn' reason, and if that's
the way she feels about it, she can't blame me for
what 1 do while I'm here alone . . ."
"No, Janet didn't go with me to New York. One of
the twins had a possible upper-respiratory infection,
and she didn't, think she should leave . . ."
"No, I'm here at the ABA convention by myself
this time. My wife used to make the trips with me
every year, but since the kids . . ."
"Well, most of our wives used to travel with the
team, but Dick's wife is the only one who does
anymore; she doesn't have any kids to make arrange-
ments for. The rest of us, well, manage to make —
adjustments. You doing anything tonight?"
How many stories would you like?
I could tell you fifty.
But it is not fifty stories, really; it is one story, fifty
times . . .
The husband traveling without his wife, in effect, a
single man again. There are girls in whatever city he
goes to, and lots of them look like my friend Lori.
And there are lots of men who actively seek out such
opportunities for freedom through travel, though at
times the "travel" is only to another part of town.
There was a man in the Southwest who turned down
a promotion to branch manager of an insurance
office, preferring to remain a claims inspector because
he was able to be out of the office, "where my wife
can't reach me."
And an executive told me in Boston, "It's my firm
belief that this whole structure of business travel-
conventions, sales meetings, management seminars,
account solicitations, training programs— grew out of
a pretty comprehensive desire on the part of com-
pany men to get away from their families. In fact,
we've got a policy of discouraging wives from coming
along. If even one wife did, she might tell the rest
what goes on. The ostensible reason, of course, is that
we're occupied with business. Not at night we're
Whether or not there is, and to what extent there is,
infidelity is probably beside the point. The point is
that men do seem to withdraw from the home,
particularly after children are born. The factory men
fill the neighborhood bars; the ghetto men are on the
streetcorner; the middle-management types are work-
ing late at the office; and, at 7 p.m., from the
Westwood Village for married students at UCLA,
there is a mass exodus of men for the library, leaving
their wives and very young babies in the apartments.
("After the child comes," said a UCLA counselor,
"the husband will stay home less because it's difficult
Now, of course some men stay home a lot. Some
never go on business trips, and if they do, they
behave themselves. And some men drive home faith-
fully at 6 p.m. and take part in togetherness activities
like neighborhood barbecues and Little League
games. But please don't assume that this is the norm,
because it honestly doesn't seem to be.
It's interesting, I think, that June Robbins, in an
article dealing with Little League baseball, continu-
ally referred to Mom 's interest in the game. You might
imagine that the father's involvement might also be
strong. But her article, in the July, 1969 McCalVs,
didn't even mention Father. By the time his lads
reach Little League age, has he withdrawn from the
family to the point where he's simply not interested?
If so, then the marriage may not have much meaning.
Whether or not it stays together, it has broken down.
Of course there are reasons, other than children, for
separation of husband's and wife's interests. There are
other reasons for the breakdown of a marriage.
Marriages without children can have their problems,
too. If one or the other partner is insecure and
demands too much attention, there are problems. If
husband or wife finds his work boring or frustrating,
there can be problems. If one partner does not get
along well with the other's friends, that's a problem.
Any marriage has to bring some problems, because
marriage seeks to integrate two distinct personalities,
arid such integration can never be completely
achieved. There are always some clashes along with all
the love and cooperation.
But without children, the problems can be more
easily solved. The chance to be alone, to talk about
problems and to relate to each other is far easier
without children. The novelty and stimulation of new
experiences together (dinner out, a weekend away, a
long trip) are more available, and they are necessary
ingredients to growing love as well as therapy for
But such prescriptions can be hard to fill if there are
children. ("What do you mean, go out for dinner?
Have you looked at the budget?" "What do you
mean, go away? Who's going to keep Sarah and
Junior, I'd like to know!") In such cases, is it
surprising that a man might find his therapy alone?
WHA T HAPPENS TO GIRLS
WHO HA VE BABIES?
"I am tired of discussing household matters. There
is no worse thing than for women to sit day after
day taking care of miserable . . . puling children."
—from an 1870 Harper's Bazaar magazine
accompanying a drawing now in the
"The first twenty years of a woman's life are
extraordinarily rich; she discovers the world ... at
twenty or thereabouts, mistress of a home, a child
in her arms, she stands with her life virtually
finished . . ."
— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
The girl was young, twenty-three perhaps, and with
bright red hair sleeked under an Indian band. She and
her husband seemed far too young to be on the verge
of separation, to have come to thus Baltimore counse-
lor's office as a last try to avoid divorce . . .
She was looking at her husband angrily. "Why did
you change so completely toward me after the chil-
dren came?" she demanded.
"Elizabeth, please think back. Wasn't it you who
changed? Even after Troy was old enough to leave
him with a sitter, you had no time to meet me, no
interest in planning anything together . . ."
And the interview did show that the changes of
attitude had been hers, at least initially.
Just the physical burdens of child care can cause a
depressing change in a young wife. It occurs to me,
really, that the problem of the population explosion
might be solved— at once— if every girl who was even
remotely thinking • about babies were given a free
batch of these "How-to-Be-a-Mother" books, outlin-
ing all the work involved.
I'm suspicious of anything titled How to Be a
Mother anyway: the omission of the word "wife"
seems curious. The redheaded girl who was about to
lose her husband had" read these books and taken
their suggestions for efficiently scheduling her day.
"The day has arranged itself," says a book called
How to Be a Successful Mother; "it seems to have
a will of its own. The work almost tells you what
you have to do next. All the messy picking up,
cleaning, laundry fall into the cheerful, energetic
early part of the day . . . After lunch comes baby's
nap, and you have found out just how to utilize
that time . . . perhaps you do some of your
cooking then . . . you do long careful jobs where
the baby is unwelcome— waxing, ironing ..."
None of the books, though, had suggested keeping
up with her husband's world, or meeting him for
lunch or cocktails. So involved are these manuals with
structuring and analyzing all the tasks involved in
child care that the husband is all but forgotten.
"You always seemed angry and pressured," the man
was saying to his wife. "You did two things con-
stantly, two things: one, you complained about the
housework; two, you never did it."
"There was never time to do a goddam thing. You
know what a difficult baby Troy was; it wasn't my
fault he would never sleep, that I was so busy taking
him for check-ups and trying to stop his crying that I
never— well, I barely had time to shop for grocer-
ies . . ."
Another book-for-mothers, this one by Dr. Clair
Isbister and called What Is Your Problem, Mother?
(Hey, I think I could answer that) tells of a British
survey studying 700 full-time housewife-mothers.
Seems the average at-home mom spent fifteen hours a
day (!) at child care and housekeeping.
I didn't believe it either. But Elizabeth insisted
almost tearfully that every minute was taken up. . . .
And we visited some friends who have children last
night, and I noticed a few things I hadn't before.
Fifteen hours might be about right. You see, even
when a mother is just sitting down with her husband
and friends to talk, she's apt to hear "Mommy!" and
she has to up and deal with a small child-crisis. It
takes maybe ten minutes. Or, the telephone rings.
And she must explain to another mother, "No, that's
not really what went on at the playground. Yes,
Keithy was there alone, but it wasn't Keithy who was
causing the trouble. It was Jonathan, and ... oh,
Steffi came home crying? Oh, I'm sorry . . . But it
was really nothing serious; it was just . . ." And that
can take twenty minutes.
Those^snatches of time do add up.
They also subtract— from time spent with a hus-
"We never had a conversation after the babies came,
Elizabeth, I swear it. I'd come home, honestly, with
things I felt I wanted to talk over, tell you about. But
by the time you finished feeding Troy and Mary, I'd
had two martinis and was out of the mood. By the
time they were in bed, there'd been so much noise
and confusion around the house that I just felt I
wanted to be left alone. By that time, I wasn't even
sure I wanted to talk to you. Earlier in the evening,
yes, but with all the interruptions ... it was like
living with a servant who's on call twenty-four hours
I still don't quite believe fifteen hours, but, as Dr.
Isbister goes on to explain, it is a lot of work:
"Think of the woman who has two children under
two," Dr. Isbister writes, "and often even three-
and four-year-olds need lifting. Think how many
miles that woman runs, looking to see that those
children are not in trouble. Think of the constant
mental strain of being on the alert— always listen-
ing, always ready to run, always half expecting an
emergency . . . Think of the time needed to dress,
wash, supervise homework, take children to
school or lessons, take baby for a walk . . ."
That's all in addition to cooking, cleaning, laundry,
and errands, by the way. Dr. Isbister adds, though,
"Now, it really isn't quite as bad as it sounds,
because, except for the mothers of young chil-
dren, we are not all working under pressure. We
can pause now and again."
Except for the mothers of young children? Except
for the mothers of young children? Now, just how
does one get to be the mother of older children
without first going through the "mother of young
What happens to the girl-mother in the meantime?
To her interest in life? To her sense of sheer fun? Will
it survive daily exposure to all that child-created
tension? Sometimes not; some mothers of young (or
older) children don't laugh very easily or very sponta-
neously. If you or I as outsiders don't notice this,
there's one person who does: her husband. To the
question, "How has your wife changed since you had
children?" there was one answer I got all the time:
"She used to be more relaxed; she used to be a lot
more fun ..." That was certainly Elizabeth's hus-
Of course the problem is lessened if you use
day-care centers. But that "constant mental strain of
being on the alert" occurs just as easily in the
And finally, according to Dr. Isbister, the mothers
of older children may pause "now and again." Now
and again? Now and again a mother may pause to
think her own thoughts, read her own magazine,
experience her own sensations, live a touch of her
own life? Now and again ?
No wonder Hegel said the birth of children is the
death of parents. It's just too bad somebody a bit
more popularly known didn't say that. Maybe Eliza-
beth would have read it in high school and thought
about it, balancing it against the Ladies' Home Jour-
nal's point of view. But that didn't happen. She had
her children; and they enforced a confinement to the
home and subservience to routine that was all-absorb-
Oh, but hasn't the blender changed all this? And
spray starch? And Enfamil pre-packs? And the vac-
"Even with all the labor-saving devices," Betty
Friedan points out in The Feminine Mystique, "the
modern American housewife probably spends more
time on housework than her grandmother . . . each
labor-saving appliance brought in a labor-demanding
elaboration of work." (Emphasis mine.)
"Housewifery," she concluded (that's her word for
all those house, child, and garden tasks that produce
sparkling rugs, rompers, sinks, and sofas) "expands to
fit the time available."
With small children in the home, women invariably
stay in the home. A dayful of hours is available. They
fill these hours scouring, sewing, waxing, polishing,
dusting, changing, using dishwashers and dryers, elec-
tric mixers and vacuum cleaners. Those wives who
recognize and resist or resent these tasks (like Eliza-
beth) may feel guilty; to ease this feeling, they may
complain about the difficulty of the tasks they
haven't done. But calling attention to these things can
cause conflict with their husbands.
Do child-raising and housewifery always cause these
unfortunate results for a housewife?
I don't know. I know girls who say they're happy
with it. Housework can be creative, they say. But
then, I don't know, and they don't know, what they
might be doing otherwise. Even if a housewife finds
"creative" house tasks (baking bread; redecorating;
hobbies like ceramics and gardening) isn't she still
restricting her environment, and her contacts with
One exception. A very attractive gal of about forty,
with a teenage daughter. This wife is out all the time,
but not at supermarkets and ceramics stores. She's
into everything, usually bubbling with stories of
bearding supervisors in town board meetings, con-
ducting press conferences, trying to talk Lau-
rance Rockefeller out of money, conducting protest
marches on draft boards. Her daughter, Sally, and
Sally's friends, say she's the only mother they can
talk to. The reason is obvious: she's into the same
world they are. And she can help the girls with their
boy problems without reverting to "when I was
young" story-relics, but with a cool, "Well, if I got
the community committee to invite the Exuma
group, we should be able to figure out how to get
Howard to take you to hear them . . ." approach.
She's still in the world; she still knows what it's all
But could you really consider her a housewife? She
is a definite exception, to my experience (and to
Betty Friedan's). Usually, it seems that getting out of
the house and into the world requires too much
initiative. It takes vision to see these things to do.
Too often, when her child is very small, a housewife
gets into a pattern of just housework; and the pattern
is a strong one. Even after her child is older, she may
not see the Sierra Club or other community projects;
her vision is tuned instead to the dusty shelves,
kitchen counters, and unplumped pillows. House-
wifery expands to fit the time available; she spends all
And that does nothing for a girl.
We all take our cues in life from environmental
prompters. Put a girl in a fashion house among
designers and models and she will become chic,
stylish, aware of the cyclical changes of that quality
called "taste." Put that same girl in a progressive law
office, and she will become aware of the patterns of
our social ethics and aware of the inequities of those
Put her in a house amidst bassinet, bottles, diapers,
diaper pails, Lysol, Electrasol, playpen, playthings,
crib, back-pack, carry-all, Endust, waxer and vacuum
cleaner . . . and what will happen? She has to deal
with all those things; those items have to be kept
straight, clean, organized, or track of. And it all will
have to be done again soon. Soon there will be more
dishes to be loaded, more things to be picked up,
Junior to be changed again. Might this make her feel
almost . . . mechanical? Might it make her feel less
interesting than before?
My friend Laura summed it up very simply. "You
know, when you stay at home all day, you feel
different," she told me once.
"How?" I asked.
I would not have believed that Laura could ever feel
dull. She's one of the wittiest girls I've ever known.
Her husband, Greg, is far from being easy to live with,
but she always handled him beautifully. Often, if he
complained about something petty, she'd simply ig-
nore the complaint and start chatting lightly about
something else until he got over it.
But after she became an at-home mother, she didn't
have as much to chat about. She began to respond to
his complaints, and there was a general air of tension
between them. ("When Greg comes home, we give
each other this look that says, 'Well, are we going to
fight tonight or aren't we?' ")
Even little things could cause fights. One day Greg
brought a friend home for a drink. The way Laura
told it, as she was getting the ice, she heard him show
off one-month-old Gloria briefly, then say, "You'll
have to excuse the mess in the place, Dan, but you
know how it is with a kid." And they both gave a
"I could have thrown the ice bucket in his face,"
Laura told me. "The apartment was not a mess. Good
Lord, with all the time I spend cleaning, it should win
a national sanitation award. And it's not as though
her teethers and things were strewn all over; they
never are. There may have been one teether on the
coffee table; there may have been one blanket on the
arm of a chair. That's all. The diapers and towels were
stacked, that means neat, by the bassinet. What does
he expect, that you put a baby in a closet when
people come over? And when I heard him apologizing
like that, I thought— well, what's more important to
him, a perfect apartment or his child? And when he
called her a— a kid, I did not like the sound of that.
Gloria is not just 'a kid.' She is our baby. I was so
angry I barely said one word while we had our drinks.
I'm sorry, but how do you make charming noises
after a put-down like that? And believe me, we really
had it out when Dan left ..."
Now, you have to understand that before Gloria
was born, Greg used to complain about Laura's
housekeeping a lot. (I think I said Greg wasn't too
easy to live with.) And Laura's reaction was a good-
natured quip ("Well, you see, I was frightened by
housework when I was little . . .") that smoothed
Laura's role, after she had Gloria and quit her job,
was home-centered, baby-centered. Therefore, any
criticism of the apartment or the baby was a personal
affront that couldn't be tolerated.
Greg and Laura have a different marriage, and it is
not a better marriage for the addition of a child. At
this point, it is Laura who has changed, is changing.
She's more thin-skinned and quick to get angry at real
or imagined slights. I think she's coping with what
most new mothers have to cope with: physical work,
loss of image, lack of novelty, loneliness . . .
She's not as close to Greg as she once was.
Since a mother is with a baby all day rather than
with her husband, she is more aware of that baby's
needs than she is of her husband's needs. She knows
the baby's schedule for feeding, changing, cuddling,
and check-ups. How can she possibly know that her
husband has had such a terrific strain at work today
that he needs one hour of complete silence between 6
and 7 p.m. How can she know that he just lost an
account at 3 p.m. and could really use a night out as
an ego boost? The baby's needs are simpler, and she's
in more direct touch with them, and the baby is small
and helpless, so it's almost inevitable that baby's
needs come first.
A husband can see his wife's devotion to the baby,
and it's pretty for a while. (Usually for at least one
month.) His wife exhibits new qualities: concern;
motherliness; responsibility; maturity.
But there's a catch. These new qualities may not be
adding on to the qualities that attracted him to
his wife in the first place. They may be displacing
those prior qualities: freedom; humor; impulsiveness;
youth. Before a husband's eyes, the girl he married
gradually disappears and is just as gradually replaced,
by a mother.
Those changes are mental. There are usually physi-
cal changes that interact with the mental and emo-
tional shifts. The physical changes may result from
the physiology of childbirth or from simple neglect;
and they do not always happen. But very, very often,
girls become less attractive after having a child.
Some new mothers are not upset by this; they may
have never felt comfortable displaying themselves as
visual feminine creatures anyway. Pregnancy and
motherhood can be a way of withdrawing from
competition— or of putting oneself into a different
competitive field. Mothers are not expected to be
quite as attractive as young girls. They're to be
compared to other mothers, not adolescents. (The
catch here is that their husband's taste in femininity
doesn't always change with his wife's figure.)
Lots of men maintain a nice pose, though, a pose of
"I like the way you look now better, honey," or,
"Sure, you're just as beautiful as ever." That can be a
combination of guilt and concern for a wife's feelings.
In plainer words, there can be some degree of hypoc-
risy involved. In still plainer words, those husbands
may be lying.
A case in point: Once, attending a teachers' conven-
tion with a girlfriend, I met some friends of hers, a
husband and wife who taught in Annapolis. The four
of us had lunch together. This man's wife was
expecting their second child, though that wasn't
obvious yet. "Can't wait till she starts to show," the
man said fondly. "Nothing more beautiful than a
That night, he phoned my girlfriend, Naomi, and
spent half an hour trying to convince her to meet him
that weekend in Washington.
"Listen, men grow up on a diet of Playboy," a
psychologist who treats male sexual inadequacy told
me impatiently. "It's really such an obvious question
that you're asking ... it should be obvious to you if
you'll think about it, that men respond to something
approaching that ideal, physically. Now, put a woman
through childbirth and a few things can change. The
muscle tone of the torso goes. The breasts can sag,
even if they're small. The legs change. And the most
serious problem can be prolapse of the uterus. It
doesn't add up to a good body. The conditioned
response— good body, sexual arousal— doesn't work
any more because the body's not there. Doctors miss
the point sometimes, because after a while, the
problem can become generalized."
Yes, most of his patients were men married for
some time, and virtually all had one child or more.
How usual was it for men to lose desire for their
wives after their wives had children? "I can only tell
you that I'm very busy," he said.
"Sensual" and "maternal" may be two different
kinds of femininity, prompting differing masculine
A photographer who free-lances for several major
magazines told me the following story: "We were at a
friend's house, a bunch of us guys, planning a bache-
lor party for the boss at (X) magazine. We were at
Bob and Madeline's, and somebody said, 'Well, OK,
we go to a topless place. We find a topless place.
That's all there is to it.' And Madeline was kind of
sitting around taking all this in and not saying much,
and she decided to be cute and she said, 'Fine. I'll go
along and dance topless for you.'
"Rob really let her have it. He said, 'You know,
honey, when we were married, at first, I'd have been
jealous at that. But after three kids, you can go ahead
and dance topless if you want to. Nobody 'd want
"She handled it pretty well. She just said, 'Well,
pardon me while I take off my clothes, and we'll see,'
acting like it was a joke, and she went and got more
ice. But it practically ruined the whole project as far
as I was concerned; all I could think of was that she
was probably in the kitchen, crying. I really don't
understand it. Rob's just not that kind of guy. Or at
least he used not to be."
No, probably not. But then Madeline has changed,
too. And while I'm not trying to defend her hus-
band's attitude, I'd like to do some thinking about
what lies behind it.
His attitude seems selfish and shallow: "You're not
pretty anymore, Madeline." But there could be more
to it than that. Physical changes usually mean per-
sonality changes. And there are several qualities
(some frivolous, some of more substance) that are
more generally found in physically attractive women.
An attractive woman is apt to be confident, and she's
apt to be fun. She is easily conversational with men.
All of this, and not just the line of the body, can
change after children. Judith Viorst has a poem called
"Nice Baby," which reads, in part:
"Last year I talked about black humor and the
impact of the common market on the European
Threw clever little cocktail parties in our dis-
cerningly eclectic living room . . . and
Was occasionally hungered after by highly placed
men in communications, but
This year we have a nice baby . . .
And I talk about nursing versus sterilization
While the men in communications
Hunger elsewhere . . ."*
Of course, Mrs. Viorst means to show all this and
say that it's mildly bothersome but just fine. I'm not
so sure it's fine, but she does do a good job of
demonstrating some changes that can occur after
maternity: a woman's conversation changes; she may
talk to women more than men; the men in communi-
cations "hunger elsewhere." That all makes a differ-
ence to a husband, I think. It matters to him if his
wife is attractive to other men; he feels good because
this woman that other men are hungering after is his.
Wasn't Rob expressing disappointment that Madeline
wouldn't be attractive to his friends any longer?
It's possible that she was no longer as interesting to
them, either. A girl who's suddenly in a new role
(mother) and in a new body (maternal) may be
unsure of herself. She may vacillate between super-
cool and too-flirtatious ("I'll dance topless for you")
rather than talk naturally with men, from a base of
And while it is true that Rob has not made a
transition that is required of fathers, i.e., to appreci-
ate deeper personal qualities rather than the physical,
how do we know that Madeline has developed any
deeper personal qualities for him to appreciate?
You don't automatically become more of a person
when you become less of a sexpot.
In fact, loss of personality and appearance can
coincide. Simone de Beauvoir has indicated that an
unattractive appearance expresses resentment, is a
rejection of a husband. (We are not speaking here of
the woman who has lost torso tone and so forth, but
of the one who deliberately neglects her appearance.)
If Miss de Beauvoir's view is correct— if a wife's loss of
beauty means, "I am angry at you, so I will not be a
cute young thing anymore"— then husbands are read-
ing an emotional as well as a physical barometer, and
* From It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty.
they are correct in withdrawing from it. It is a
rejection of them.
It is also a denial of the feminine self. So is a
narrowing conversational repertoire. A shift from
"black humor . . . the common market . . . the
European economy" to "nursing versus sterilization"
reflects another way in which the self is less signifi-
cant. The self has resigned itself to a smaller world
and a subservient role and an abandonment of the
feminine role, to the extent that interaction with men
is limited if one is talking about "nursing versus
Interaction with one's own husband can be limited
if the talk is only about domestic matters, and if the
wife's image is purely domestic. A husband comes
home from a diverse, capricious, competitive and
somewhat exciting world. It is also a flirtatious world,
but there are men and women in it. Usually the
flirtations are innocent. But they are stimulating,
flattering to a husband; and they provide a good
complement to his own self-image. Entering the
home, the sight of wife/mother figure just might not
complement his image of himself as much. And I
think wives had better realize this.
Some wives would hotly deny that this is the case.
They may see motherhood and domesticity as a trap,
but a nice one. One article by a Redbook reader was
called, "Why I Like Feeling Trapped."
"As a bride, I dreamed of travelling and writing
poetry," the woman wrote. Now, with five children,
she tells of the "satisfactions" of "scrubbing the life
out of the linoleum, and toiling twelve times every
five days up and down three flights of stairs with the
laundry . . ."
"My husband understands," she writes. "My hus-
band understands that I've pushed the baby carriage
twenty-five miles. When he comes home, he doesn't
expect Jane Fonda . . ."
I think that after a while a difference in relative
status makes itself clear to the husband: he's attrac-
tive to young, single women; and he's additionally
desirable because he's married, and thus appeals to a
certain adventurous spirit since he's supposedly "off
Some married men almost project a challenge to
these girls: "Can you lure me away from my wife?"
The girls often try, these girls who travel and write
poetry; and, whether or not they succeed, they
gratify the husband's male ego in a way the wife-
mother at home no longer can.
But what about the female ego of that wife-mother?
What is there to bolster it? Is she as attractive as
before? (In most cases, no.) Is her husband as atten-
tive as formerly? (Probably not.) Is her work satisfy-
ing? (If it were, she would feel better about herself;
and the answer to the two prior questions might be
yes.) Her work, though, is largely maintenance and
endlessly repetitive. It can add to her loneliness.
Lederer and Jackson have written that there are many
types of loneliness; there is, for one, the loneliness of
the person who has a limited behavioral repertoire.
This is almost certainly the housewife-mother. There
should be creative aspects to child-raising; but the
fact that so many children grow up so troubled
indicates that in most households these creative as-
pects are overshadowed by minutiae and routine.
It is, all in all, an unsatisfying situation.
And there is a regrettable sort of affair which can
grow out of it, as a wife-mother tries to escape the
loneliness and reassert her femininity.
Now, I can be talked into the idea that affairs can
have a place in today's marriages. It can be pointed
out to me that some affairs are innocuous, and some
are even positive.
But it seems to me that if an affair is meant to add
something to a stable and balanced life pattern, that
is one thing. If it is meant to compensate for a lack
within a life, that is quite another thing. I don't think
the dynamics of compensation are ever completely
healthy; and it seems to me the example of a young
mother given in February, 1970 Philadelphia maga-
zine is an example, and a typical one, of this latter
type of affair.
"Jennifer," says the article, "found herself in the
classic position of the young housewife with too
many children that she had had too fast, an ambitious
husband who was out of the house all the time
furthering his career, and a growing sense of hostility
" 'My husband was going to meetings and playing
golf and having a ball, and there I was stuck in the
house all the time, with nowhere to go, feeling sorry
for myself. . . . This was one of my husband's best
friends, wouldn't you know?' "
(Yes, it usually is someone who knows her husband.
Who else, in the all-female world of suburbia, is she
apt to meet? Except the mailman, the delivery
boys . . .)
Summer is a particularly vulnerable time for some
women, according to the writer of that Philadelphia
article: "A wife who's stuck at some summer colony
somewhere with a brood of little kids and a gossipy
gaggle of other hens while her husband is back in the
city can find the vacuum intolerable . . . and maybe
fill it if the right lifeguard or waiter or friend's
husband comes along . . ."
On stopping to think, I know any number of
similarly "vulnerable" young mothers who spend a
month of the summer at Ocean City while their
husbands commute out from their Baltimore and
Washington offices on weekends. "I keep having this
daydream," said a girl I questioned, "it's almost a
fantasy really. Every morning before the kids wake
up, I put on my bathing suit, brush my hair, and go
walking along the beach, all alone. Walking, running. I
want some man to suddenly appear and start walking
along with me, then stop and take off my bathing suit
and make love to me right there, on the sand."
Not every young mother would confess to having
such thoughts; but how many do?
Another mother confessed to not just the thoughts,
but to a pattern of affairs. Every year, the week
before the season opens at Ocean City, she takes her
children there; while they're being cared for by a
mother's helper, she meets "an old friend." This has
been going on, she says, for a number of years. She
has affairs with other men, too. "Just about anybody.
It's the only excitement I have. I may be married,"
she said, "I may have children. But I am not dead."
Trying to feel alive, still feminine; can an affair built
on that motivation be beneficial? Can a summer affair
based on boredom ("It's the only excitement in my
life") and loneliness really bring any meaningful
happiness, any real change in life the other weeks of
There are other unwholesome compensations.
Many wives become superconsumers, or super-
mothers. Having an unsatisfying inner life, they focus
instead on the outer lives of their children, taking
them everywhere, buying them everything.
This overspend does nothing to build love or close-
ness. "My job," said a Kansas City mother of five, "is
to keep us exactly enough in debt, about $500 a
month, so that Jay can't get any ideas about running
around; I keep it so that he can't afford to." But
since the husband becomes unable to pay the bills, he
has a perfect reason to spend even more time away
from home: overtime, a second job, in order to earn
more money. The wife counters by increasing her
level of spending. Not always does this' cycle of
combat reach the divorce courts; the couple cannot
afford divorce. But it's not a happy situation. The
child-centered, overspending mother makes parent-
hood exclusively material, (bikes, sports equipment,
records, clothing) and exclusively maternal. Parent-
hood can't be a shared activity when the husband is
away from home so much.
It usually isn't, anyway.
The saddest attempted compensation is used by the
woman Dr. A. H. Chapman calls "The Baby Ma-
chine." The mother feels neglected by the husband.
Pregnancy, she remembers, focused her husband's
attention on her (for nine months, anyway).
Betty Friedan, in The Feminine Mystique, tells the
story in detail:
"... the woman with two children . . . bored and
restive in her city apartment, is driven by her
sense of futility and emptiness to move, 'for the
children's sake,' to a spacious house in the sub-
urbs. The house takes longer to clean, the shop-
ping and gardening and chauffering . . . are so
time-consuming that, for a while, the emptiness
seems solved. But when the house is furnished,
and the children are in school, and the family's
place in the community is settled . . . the empty
feeling returns, and so she must redecorate the
living room, or wax the kitchen floor more often
than necessary— or have another baby." (Emphasis
But each successive pregnancy, and child, further
entraps her, until finally there is no possibility of
joining the husband in his world. She tries instead to
restrict his activities to the tightly-drawn domestic
circle, too. She creates projects and problems to keep
him around the house. (She doesn't call the plumber.
She calls her husband's office to tell him about the
problem and ask him to come home early. "No, I just
couldn't get anybody to come," she lies.)
She nags if he suggests a night out on his own.
She curtails any freedom he used to have on
She is horrible.
"Before the kids came," an East Coast radio an-
nouncer told me, "I used to shoot a round of golf on
Saturdays." (He now has eight children.) "May would
usually do some shopping, have her hair done. Sun-
days we'd sleep late, have a pitcher of Bloody Marys
in bed, maybe, just relax. Go for a drive, make plans
with friends, take in a show, go out for dinner. I
never minded going back to work on Monday. The
weekends made it all worthwhile. Oh, and we used to
take trips, too . . .
"But anyway, once the kids came, it was all differ-
ent. Suddenly, I wasn't 'supposed' to play golf any-
more. I should stay home and fix the hedges. She
never worried about the hedges before . . ." (But
there are eight children now, and it is "all different.")
. . . "Or the rumpus room has to be redone, or the
walls washed down, or some damn' thing . . .
"Sundays are a pain. We can't just do what we want
anymore. Like it or not, we've got to go someplace
'for the kids,' she says. 'We're going to do this, we're
going to go here,' because it's something the kids
haven't seen, you understand.
Some people would argue that there is a higher
purpose to this: that sacrificing your own preferences
in the raising of children is a noble thing. I don't
agree. I think when you give up too much of yourself,
you're of not much value to anybody, including those
you're supposedly sacrificing for— the children.
The announcer was still talking, about the children,
about his wife. He was driving me to his house, to
meet them. "She used to be a wife," he said. "Now,
she's a general, giving orders, directing traffic.
"Kids change a woman," he said, in a louder voice.
"You know, it's funny. Very funny. I used to love
her." He shook his head, smashed out a cigarette in
the ashtray of his station wagon. (They have two
station wagons.) We turned a corner. "This is the
street," he said. "You'll see what I'm talking about."
I nodded. But I had been interviewing for this book
for several months. I had seen what he was talking
about so often. I was not looking forward to seeing it
Escaping the Baby Trap:
Birth Control and Abortion
"Make love, not more people."
—Sign in a 42nd Street Office in Manhattan
The Clergy Counseling Service of Los Angeles has put
out a succinct recipe for avoiding motherhood:
1) Say "No," and mean it.
2) If Step 1 fails, use a contraceptive.
3) If Steps 1 and 2 fail, the very next day see a
gynecologist. Tell his receptionist that the matter
is confidential and that you must talk to the
doctor immediately. Do not take "No" for an
answer. Time is of the essence. If you see a doctor
immediately, he can give you a "morning after"
treatment— a series of hormone pills. If the gyne-
cologist tries to put you off, find another gyne-
cologist the same day.
4) If you fail to carry out Steps 1, 2 and 3, and if
you miss your period— then consult a gyne-
cologist. If you are pregnant, proceed to Step 5.
(If the gynecologist tries to get you to wait until
you have missed a second period, you have the
wrong gynecologist. Find another one immediate-
5) You now have two realistic options . . .
a) Phone Los Angeles Clergy Counseling service
at (213) 666-7600. A recorded message will give
you a choice of ministers to call,
b) Write to A.R.A.L., Box 6083, San Fran-
cisco, 94101. Enclose $5.00. The best current in-
formation will be sent to you.
Hopefully, by the time this book reaches print,
abortion will be easy and open in all states; and that
foregoing memo, with its ambiguous references to
"options" and "best current information" will seem a
quaint reminder of the time when girls had to
negotiate a maze of underground channels in order to
obtain an abortion.
Quaint though the wording may seem by this time,
that CCS memo does a clear job of mapping out the
routes circumventing Maternity Highway:
Abstinence. Birth control. Morning-after treatment.
All of them will work; but only birth control makes
Total abstinence is fine for twelve-year-olds. Maybe
even for seventeen-year-olds. But after a while, "say-
ing 'no' and meaning it" is not very much fun, and
not very good for you, either. If you don't believe
that, read Freud or somebody and find out how a
neurotic personality can be traced to sexual repres-
Besides, sexual activity is good for the heart, ac-
cording to one doctor I talked to recently. (He was
not being facetious, by the way.) It would seem that
in good-for-you exercise, such as jogging, the idea is
to stimulate the heart rate to something like 142
beats per minute. Guess what happens during sex?
148 beats per minute.
But in more total terms, a girl or woman of a
reasonable age should be allowed to experience the
sensuality of which her body is capable. I'm not
arguing for total sexual license. Simply, I think a girl
or woman should be free to act on an honest feeling
of desire for a man.
Of course the traditional moralists would say that
such girls, if unmarried, would be haunted by guilt. I
think it's just as possible to be haunted by regret over
what is not done as by guilt over what is done. In
fact, it's more possible — and more painful, and more
apt to be disruptive of future life. So I have to be
strongly against abstinence as a means of birth con-
trol. I don't think it's very realistic, and I don't think
it's very right.
Simply taking the Pill makes a lot more sense, as far
as I'm concerned. It's as easy to take as a vitamin, as
automatic to remember as brushing your teeth, and
takes a fraction of the time required to slick on your
Peach Glace lip gloss. And the Pill as a method of birth
control can maximize sexual pleasure in a number of
ways: fear of pregnancy is removed as an inhibiting
factor; there is nothing to interfere with the sensations
of love-making; there is no interruption of love-play.
And the Pill is safe.
Exhaustive Senate hearings last year showed none
of the dangers anybody was looking for in any
significant degree. "The hearings did not uncover new
dangers in the Pill but merely repeated old stories
that the public had heard before and that had been
carefully weighed beforehand by responsible medical
authorities." That's a statement by Dr. Edward Tyler,
a leading gynecologist of national repute, in a June,
1970 Look magazine.
What were those "old stories?"
Some dealt with minor side effects. Some girls using
the Pill developed symptoms of nausea, nervousness,
mood change, breakthrough bleeding, breast enlarge-
ment, a slight or temporary weight gain— the symp-
toms, in other words, of pregnancy. This is not
surprising. The Pill, by suppressing ovulation, can
imitate the effects of pregnancy. In most girls who
developed the symptoms, though, the cause may have
been psychological. With the exception of the change
in breast size and sensitivity (which seems to be
pretty inevitable), gynecologists have found that
when they suggest to their patients that there may be
these side effects, the side effects occur, with pre-
dictable regularity. When the side effects are not
mentioned, they occur infrequently.
The "old stories" of blood clots and cancer seemed
more serious. But no case of cancer has ever been
attributed to the Pill, during the more than ten years
that the Pill has been in extensive use.
And incidents of irregular blood-clotting in girls
using the Pill are as isolated as they are sensational-
ized. "The risk of blood-clotting irregularities due to
the Pill is real," said Dr. Sanford Wolf of the Johns
Hopkins Women's Clinic, "and it is small. And," he
emphasized, "the risks must be compared to the
infinitely greater risks of pregnancy."
According to Dr. Arthur J. Samuels, who studied
the effects of the Pill on the clotting mechanisms of
the blood for four years before publishing his
thorough study of hormone contraception, the Pill is
safe for normal users. Dr. Alan Guttmacher, Emeritus
Professor of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New
York, considers the Pill an important health tool;
and, in Senate subcommittee testimony early last
year, he compared distrust of the Pill to distrust of
penicillin. A few people react negatively to both
drugs; most can benefit.
In fact, according to information provided by Dr.
David Shaw of Baltimore's Peoples Free Clinic, a
woman who takes the Pill has more chance of being
alive one year later than her sisters who choose to
have a baby or who choose some other form of
contraception, assuming a failure rate for other meth-
When other methods fail, you see, pregnancy re-
And it is pregnancy which can be dangerous. It is
interesting that the popular press, and particularly the
ladies' magazines, journalize about the side effects of
the Pill and ignore the side effects of pregnancy.
Where are the articles about melanoma during preg-
nancy? About heart-valve prothesis occurring during
pregnancy? About ovarian lutein cysts associated
with pregnancy? Or, for that matter, blood-clotting
abnormalities during pregnancy? You have to go to
the medical journals to find those articles!
In a 1967 British study— which has no doubt had its
unrecorded analogs every year in all countries— death
rates due to oral contraception, abortion and preg-
nancies were compared:
Death Rate Per Death Rate Per
Cause 100,000 Women 100,000 Women
of Death Age 20-34 Age 35-44
Blood clots due to use
of oral contraceptives
Deaths due to abortion
Deaths due to complications 14.1 40.3
of pregnancy and delivery
Deaths due to complications 2.6
of the post-birth period
Add that up.
If you are between twenty and thirty-four, you
have about twenty-three chances in 100,000 to die if
you become pregnant.
And you have one and a half chances in 100,000 to
die if you use the Pill.
Dr. Tyler, mentioned earlier, puts the odds even
higher: chances of death, he says, are seventeen times
greater for pregnancy than for use of oral contracep-
"Those Senate hearings," says one rather angry New
York gynecologist, "produced a lot of unwanted
babies who by all rights should be named after the
subcommittee members. They also produced a lot of
abortions, and a lot of needless medical risks. And
what did they find? Essentially, nothing. The Pill is
Also, as a birth control handbook published by
McGill University in Montreal points out:
". . . the Pill can be looked at— in its social context.
For many women there is no alternative form of
contraception that offers the degree of effectiveness,
acceptability, and convenience which the Pill offers.
Many aspects of social behavior carry a much greater
risk. Tobacco and alcohol, which society demands for
its comfort and pleasure, are associated with a very
heavy mortality and morbidity, and their conse-
quences constitute a significant part of medical prac-
tice. From the point of view of the health of society,
it would be more justifiable to have oral contracep-
tives in slot machines and restrict the sale of ciga-
rettes to medical prescription." (Emphasis mine.)
And, just to add some personal hurrahs for the Pill,
an informal survey of dozens of girls (some of whom
have been taking various brands ever since those first
really high-estrogen jobs came out) shows that not
only does the Pill do a grand job of preventing
pregnancy, it also improves the figure, the complex-
ion, and the psyche.
Unfortunately, although the Pill is safe; and al-
though more and more doctors, psychologists, law-
makers, and even some moralists and ministers (and
certainly we girls involved) prefer the Pill to saying
"No," the Pill is not all that readily available.
It isn't in slot machines.
Maybe it should be.
Maybe the Pill should appear right along with such
other symbols of the onset of feminine adolescence as
the bikini and the mascara wand. Sex, after all, has
been popularized to the extent that it's seen as not
only natural, but casual. Contraception simply has to
Contraception, instead of being regarded as arti-
ficial, should also be regarded as natural; and casual;
and just as right as rain. Or sex. And just casually part
of a girl's tote-bag equipment or make-up parapherna-
lia. (Moralists might look at it this way: the Pill
doesn't have to imply that a girl plans on a wild sex
life any more than car insurance has to indicate that a
driver is planning on a lot of auto wrecks.)
There are lots of casual ways the Pill could be
distributed. A sixteen-year-old I know thinks there
should be a compact of them in every box of
Tampax. (Attention: merchandising people at Kim-
berly-Clark.) Or, they could be distributed where it
would really count— as part of the health-service
facilities at high schools and colleges. And that last
isn't just a wildly liberal idea of mine, by the way.
Eda LeShan, author of five books on family life and
commentator on the family scene for "Newsfront" of
the National Educational Television Network, says,
"Birth control information and resources should be
easily available whenever a teenager wants them— nor
from his parents but through the school health service
or the family doctor." She says that in her book Sex
and Your Teenager, by the way, and the emphases in
the quote are mine.
However, as things stand now, you've got to ask an
M.D. or a gynecologist (or a free clinic) for a
If you're married, there's no problem.
If you're not married, there's no problem, if you
look old enough to be married, and if you live in a
large city, and if you don't mind lying a little when
you go to the gyn.
It works like this: when you see the gynecologist,
instead of Miss Lynne S. Smith, you are Mrs. Lyle S.
Smith. And you wear a ring. After he's examined you
and taken your medical history, you tell him the
reason for your visit is that you've just gotten
married, and you want some sort of oral contracep-
tive. You get your prescription. And, if you want to
be sure to avoid any billing-by-mail mix-up's, simply
pay his receptionist as you leave the office. If you
want to have the bill sent to you, it's probably OK,
too. You've given a name so similar to yours that the
mailman will shrug and put the mail for "Mrs. Lyle S.
Smith" in your mailbox.
If you're young and not married, though, and if you
look young and not married, there can be problems.
Some gynecologists can get kind of moral and
uppity with you. "I'd rather rely on self-control in
girls your age," a gyn. of this breed told a young
friend of mine.
The Pope Paul VI Award of the Year to him.
"He'd rather rely on self-control," Jan, who's seven-
teen, fumed. "What about me? And the way he
looked at me when he said, 'I'd rather you controlled
yourself,' made it seem like I was intending to sleep
with every guy I saw. Self-control. Honestly! I hope
that joyless bastard runs into nothing but self-eon-
trolled girls at his next medical convention when he's
not feeling like controlling himself . . ."
Usually, especially around college campuses, there's
a kind of grapevine that will help you avoid such
gynecologists. And it's important that you do, or you
waste between $10 and $20; risk some hurt feelings;
and still have to go to another doctor for your pills.
(Unless you can convince one of these guardians of
moral standards that you want the pills to stabilize
your period or lessen those awful cramps you've been
I should point out, in all fairness, that many
gynecologists will be sympathetic and understanding;
and they will give you the prescription.
Even the doctors at conservative, upper-middle-class
Sinai Hospital in Baltimore do not hesitate about the
Pill. Sinai runs a limited adolescent birth control
clinic and treats about a hundred girls on a contin-
uous basis. (Some of the girls are as young as twelve
and thirteen and are sexually active; that's why I say
any birth control program that really counts will have
to be part of the school system, in some way.) "The
Pill is the only kind of contraception we use," Dr.
Eugene Kaplan, director of the Sinai program was
quoted as saying.
"I give them to my own daughter, so I'd certainly
not turn down anyone else's, under usual circum-
stances," said another doctor who works with teen-
But if you, in your town, can't find a helpful
doctor, then contact Planned Parenthood, which has
offices in over 200 major cities, including such unlike-
lies as Medford, Oregon, and Beaufort, South
Carolina. (If you live in a small town, write to a
regional Planned Parenthood office— they're in San
Francisco, Austin, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Atlanta,
Philadelphia, and New York— and find out what
branch office is closest to you.)
There are also free clinics scattered around. Many
are run by churches and Women's Lib. chapters (No,
you don't have to join Women's Lib. or Corner
Presbyterian in order to use their clinic; they're just
there to help you) and you won't find any uptight
conservatism. The free clinics tend to be friendly and
informal, and mixed in with anything from political
campaigning by telephone to guitar-group tryouts.
One, in a basement of a Georgetown church in
Washington, D.C., has its staff names chalked in on a
blackboard behind the coffee table (Administrator-
Charles; Physicians— Denny, Paul, Craig; VD Counsel-
ing— Gina; Pill Counseling-nCarol . . .) so you immedi-
ately feel you know these people on a first-name
basis. And, in a Chicago free clinic, a girl went in for
birth control counseling and ended up typing stencils
and answering telephones before talking to a counse-
lor. That's what I mean by "informal."
The free clinics, by the way, usually treat between
50% and 100% black girls, and this raises another
question: one of race and birth control. Birth control
is controversial to many blacks, and some would like
to reject it altogether with the idea that they can
better fight white oppression with an increased black
That feeling, though, is by no means unanimous.
Some see an increasing black population as oppressive
of itself: i.e., oppressive of such qualities as leadership
and individuality. Some of the Panthers are scrupu-
lous about bringing their girls in for birth control
counseling, according to a Baltimore doctor who
works in an inner-city clinic.
And, in a nationally distributed position paper,
Patricia Haden, Sue Rudolph, Joyce Hoyt, Rita van
Lew, Catherine Hoyt, and Patricia Robinson, signing
themselves "Poor Black Women," say the following:
"Brothers . . . Poor black sisters decide for
themselves whether to have a baby or not ... If
we take the pills or practice birth control in other
ways, it's because of poor black men. Now here's
how it is. Poor black men won't support their
families, won't stick by their women . . . Poor
black women would be fools to sit in the house
with a whole lot of children and eventually go
crazy, sick, heartbroken, no place to go, no sign of
affection, nothing ... So when whitey put out the
pill and poor black sisters spread the word, we saw
how simple it was not to be a fool any more . . .
For us, birth control is freedom . . . Having too
many babies stops us from supporting our chil-
dren, stops us from teaching them the truth."
That letter, distributed through various sources,
including some Women's Lib. chapters, is a strong
endorsement of the Pill as beneficial to the black
girl's struggle for identity, beauty, and dignity in her
Their letter does not emphasize methods of birth
control other than the Pill, and I haven't either,
because the other usual methods have those things
called "failure rates." Intra-uterine devices, in present
form, can be expelled, particularly in women who
have not had children; diaphragms can slip; condoms.
can break; vaginal foams and jellies are not anything
most lovers want to bother with at bedtime; rhythm
is ridiculous (fewer than 30% of all women have
regular enough- cycles to give rhythm a chance of
working); and having the man withdraw himself
before climax spoils everything. (It can also leave you
pregnant. One or more drops of semen can be
released before orgasm. And that's all it takes.)
But some other methods should be mentioned. My
high enthusiasm for the Pill, and the evidence of its
safety, are irrelevant to you if you are one of the few
who should not take it. It might also be mentioned
that if you are wary of the Pill, that in itself can
produce minor side effects (notably nausea and head-
aches) and you should consider other methods of
As one birth control book notes, any method is
better than no method; and two methods combined
are better than one. Although rhythm by itself is
rather hopeless, a fitted diaphragm— plus rhythm-
compares in effectiveness to the Pill. The fitting
procedure takes only a few minutes in a gynecolo-
gist's office. It is simple, and it is essential— since,
unless this cervical cap is fitted precisely, it can slip
out of place during strenuous love-making.
Mary S. Calderone's Manual of Contraceptive Prac-
tice rates the condom fairly high in effectiveness.
Keep the following things in mind, though:
1. For maximum effectiveness, combine use of a
condom with rhythm.
2. Be sure the man is wearing one.
3. Be sure he has taken it from a small foil or
cardboard package, not unwrapped from a wallet
or billfold. (That's because rubbing against other
things in a wallet can weaken the latex material.)
4. Don't put vaseline on the condom; fatty sub-
stances cause rubber to deteriorate. Some con-
doms, though, come pre-lubricated in a foil pack-
age. And that's OK; they're lubricated with a
5. You put the condom on him as part of the
sexual foreplay; that way there's no awkward
break in mood. (And besides, that way you know
he's got it on.)
6. Never use the same condom more than once.
There are other economies.
Now, of course, condoms can break once in a while.
But since a condom is worn externally, you can
examine it afterwards. If there's a failure, you know
about it. And the advantage of that knowledge is that
you can get a "morning after" treatment the next
But this "morning after" business isn't quite as
simple as it may sound. You don't, unfortunately,
toss down a pill with your glass of orange juice, and
that's that. You've got to look up a gynecologist and
get a prescription for some high-voltage hormones
that you will take for five days. These prevent
implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus,xand
they bring on your period— whether or not you had
conceived. This treatment, by the way, is legal in all
states. It is just on the right side of the borderline
between birth control and abortion.
But if there is a chance you've conceived, go get
these five-day wonders. The cost isn't much: the
regular cost of an office visit, plus a few dollars for
the pills. This is infinitely easier than abortion;
though, because there'll be some mild complications
(like, you have to take a morning off from school or
work), you shouldn't count on "morning after"
treatments as your regular means of contraception.
Finally, if birth control has been neglected or has
failed; and if the morning after has passed; there is
the option of abortion.
Abortion is a simple operation, and hopefully by
the time of this publication, it will also be simple to
obtain— i.e., legal— in all states. At this writing,
though, laws vary. The California abortion laws are
liberal (98% of women can qualify under the mental
health clause in the state law; and you can contact
California Abortion Counseling Service, Box 73260,
Los Angeles, for information; or phone Clergy Coun-
seling Service, mentioned at the first of this chapter.)
That's if you live in or around California.
For those in the East, the good news is that
abortion is fully legal in New York State, and an
abortion can be obtained with some ease. You can
call a hospital directly and ask for their abortion or
pregnancy interruption service. You'll be given a date
for a preliminary appointment, and you'll have your
operation about a week after that.
If you have any problems getting an appointment,
there are two agencies that will help you free of
charge: Family Planning Information Service, 300
Park Avenue South; and the Women's Abortion Proj-
ect, 36 West 22nd St. These agencies can be useful in
cutting through procedural snarls, and the Women's
Abortion Project keeps costs as low as possible and
actually arranges abortions, not just referrals.
That's New York.
And, abortions are on demand, no-strings-attached
in Hawaii, but only if you live in Hawaii. Otherwise,
there's a tricky, 3-month residency requirement. And
that means that to obtain an abortion you'd have to
pack a bikini and move to the sunny state the day
after the night you think you became pregnant; get a
90-day tan; and a just-under-the-wire abortion.
Laws to legalize abortion are pending in lots of
states, though, so I guess it gets down to this: if
you're pregnant and abortion is legal in your state,
fine. If not, get a few hundred dollars together
somehow and go to New York or California. There, if
you work through the agencies mentioned, things
should be fairly easy for you.
Just by way of historical sidelight, abortion has
always been easy for girls with money. It has even
been quite enjoyable, when combined with travel.
Puerto Rico and Mexico were always popular during
the winter. One chic Manhattanite accompanied her
husband and their friends to their respective suites at
the Caribe Hilton in San Juan a few Januarys ago; she
missed just one day at the pool while she had her
abortion nearby. (Her husband was, it must be ad-
mitted, slightly upset. "She forgets one pill, and it
costs me hundreds," he pouted. But she, his wife, was
pretty. And this inconvenience was merely that: an
inconvenience, and not a catastrophe.)
For those who find Eastern Europe intriguing,
Bulgaria and Hungary offer inexpensive, and quite
So does Israel.
And England is a real favorite because there is no
language problem; it isn't necessary to traipse to
Berlitz to learn to say, "I would like a private room,
not a semiprivate room," in Bulgarian or Japanese.
(Yes, Japan was popular, too, especially during its
Abortion, like most things, was and is easy— and on
occasion fun— for the rich.
But most girls who get pregnant and don't want to
be are not rich. They do not have the easy money, or,
for that matter, the easy morality that's not unchar-
acteristic of the rich. They agonize over the decision,
and over the money. Many of them give birth to an
unwanted child, or risk an abortion performed by
unskilled hands, perhaps their own.
Their reasons vary.
Many girls and women do not understand the
In the future there will almost certainly be instant
abortions via pills or vaginal injection. But presently,
according to Dr. Alan Guttmacher's Birth Control
and Love, there are four medical techniques which
are commonly used:
1. Dilatation and curettage (D. and C.) with
anesthesia. If duration of pregnancy is less than
three months, the type of operation usually select-
ed to cause abortion is the D. and C. The doctor
first gradually widens the cervix (the opening of
the uterus) by passing a series of gradually larger
dilators into the cervix. (That's the dilatation part
of the operation.) Then, with a surgical curette,
the uterine lining that contains the embryo is
loosened and removed. Dilatation and curettage
involves no cutting of any body tissues.
2) Vacuum aspiration.
The doctor inserts, through the cervix, to the top
of the uterus, a very narrow, sterile, hollow tube
with a single window-like opening near its tip.
This tube, called an aspirator, is connected to a
suction bottle. A small suction pump operates as
the aspirator is passed around the uterine cavity.
The internal lining of the uterus is gently pulled
away, and flows through the aspirator and into
the suction bottle. This operation is simple and
rapid, usually taking less than ten minutes for a
skilled physician to perform.
3) Minute Cesarean section (for pregnancies ad-
vanced beyond three months).
By the time a woman is three months pregnant,
the fetus is too large to be removed through a
partially widened cervix. If an abortion is abso-
lutely necessary after this three-month point, the
fetus is removed from the womb, as in a Cesarean
birth, with cutting of both the abdominal and
uterine walls. A stay in the hospital is necessary
4) New method.
In 1960, a new technique was introduced for
aborting pregnancies between the fourteenth and
twenty -second week. A small area of skin is
locally anesthetized below the navel. A needle is
thrust through the abdominal wall into the cavity
of the uterus. The amniotic fluid which surrounds
the fetus is withdrawn and is replaced with a
solution which will induce a spontaneous abortion
in twenty to twenty-five hours.
With this method, too, you'll spend a night or so
in the hospital.
Those are the four most usual means of abortion, all
of which are completely safe when performed by
But that's another hangup. If abortion isn't all that
acceptable where you live, how do you find those
Please start with this thought in mind: wherever
you live, there is someone who will help you! It may
take you a few days, but you can find him.
In every large or medium-sized city there are per-
haps a dozen doctors (and perhaps many more than
that) who will perform safe abortions.
Other doctors in that city, who do not do abor-
tions, still know which of their colleagues do. Preg-
nant women, looking for medical abortionists, usually
find one by asking several doctors.
Usually it takes only three or four attempts.
Very often, too, medical students, interns, or social
workers employed in hospital clinics are prepared to
refer you to doctors who perform safe abortions.
In some cities, there are still organized referral
services, such as the Clergy Consultation Service.
Now, there's only one thing about phoning the CCS:
their lines are nearly always busy. Try very late at
night or early in the morning, and have a pencil and
paper handy. You'll probably get a. recording telling
you the names and phone numbers of several minis-
ters. Then you call the minister of your preferred
faith for direct referral to a suitable doctor.
In addition, the same sources that provide birth
control services can sometimes aid in abortion refer-
ral—that is, Planned Parenthood (not all offices, but
some) Women's Liberation chapters, etc.
And, during 1971, a unique abortion referral service
was begun by one chapter of Zero Population
Growth. From anywhere in the country, you can
simply dial Libby Smith at (415) 398-6222. When
Libby or an assistant answers the phone, tell her your
name and address. In Libby's office is a shared-time
computer, the Abortion Information Data Bank.
When given your name and address, AID responds
with a printout of the physicians closest to you who
can help you. Libby will mail this print-out to you; in
return, a $5 donation is requested.
Excellent information about abortion is also to be
found in the Pinnacle paperback EVERYTHING
YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ABORTION, by
Some women who know very well where to get an
abortion are deterred by moral considerations.
But New York's Reverend Howard Moody, who
founded the Clergy Counseling Service, points out
that the history of anti-abortion attitudes in the
Protestant church is rooted in hostility, not rever-
ence. The Calvinist attitude, for instance, was down-
right vindictive. Calvinists believed that if an unmar-
ried girl became pregnant she must be punished. Her
rightful punishment was to carry before the world the
permanent mark of her fall: a child.
Surely we're capable of more humane attitudes
today, Reverend Moody argues.
His organization, by the way, has saved many girls
from being forced to bear unwanted children. CCS
offices have been known to provide everything from
low -cost psychiatric examinations (in states where
those are still prerequisite to abortion) to a list of
approved Puerto Rican clinics.
Reverend Moody also speaks of the theological
bases of the Catholic position:
"Some priests and bishops would have us believe
that abortion (therapeutic or otherwise) is a mor-
tal sin growing out of 'natural law' doctrine; but
those who know Catholic dogma can testify that
far from being 'natural law' as old as creation, it
only became dogma in the past hundred years
with the interpretation of Pope Pius IX in 1869."
For that matter, a Catholic priest who quietly gives
birth control and abortion counseling, and who un-
derstandably prefers to remain anonymous, had this
"I do not believe that the soul enters the body until
that body is capable of independent being, until
birth. Abortion is not, therefore, synonymous with
A colleague from the same diocese adds:
"Even assuming that instant animation does occur
and that abortion is therefore technically, and I
emphasize 'technically,' murder ... I strongly state
that murder comes in many forms. An unwanted
child can be slowly murdered. In an overcrowded
world, those born into it can murder each other — by
lack of respect, absence of dignity.
"Now, certainly the boy who has irresponsibly been
the cause of a girl's pregnancy has committed a grave
sin. It is my opinion that the girl who removes herself
from that dilemma by abortion sins less than the girl
who would bear a child into frightened, confused, or
uncertain and unloving circumstances."
That's from a Catholic priest.
It might also be appropriate to remember that this
doctrine of fetal life ("instant animation") was only
announced in 1869. It therefore depends on yet
another disputable idea: papal infallibility, or the idea
that the Pope can't make a mistake. Increasing num-
bers of Catholic theologians are questioning that idea,
too. (And, of course, the same liberalization of
thought is occurring, among Catholic clergy and
Catholic couples, regarding the issue of birth control.)
Meanwhile, for women of Catholic, Protestant, or
Jewish faiths, the fact that there have been, for years,
clergymen's counseling and abortion referral services
should be reassuring.
And, just to complete the survey of religious beliefs,
eloquent testimony before the Governor of Maryland
during the abortion hearings here brought out that: in
Mohammedan lands, it is the Islamic belief that life
begins in the fetus only after 150 days; neither
Buddhist nor Hindu theology contains any scriptural
prohibition against early abortion; and the Shintu
faith holds that a child becomes a human being only
when it has seen the light of day.
The balance of theological thought, then, through-
out history and including today, has not been
weighted against abortion.
There is, of course, the expense.
Abortions cost money. And there are few things
that vary more in cost. A physician performing an
abortion may charge $150, or twice that. With a
private physician and hospital, rather than out-
patient, care, it can cost as much as $700. But though
it's possible to pay more, $700 is really a high price
for an abortion.
What about the cost of childbirth? An extremely
low estimate for that is $1000. In fact, that's unrealis-
tically low. A year ago, a major women's magazine
estimated $1626 as the average cost of having a baby.
(For that kind of money, you could have a week-
long, abortion-in-England vacation, including first-
class plane fare, private hospital room, and theater
tickets every night.)
But money is an essentially middle-class reason for
demurring from abortion. In the low-income areas of
any city, an abortion is available for $35. Or $20. Or
even $5. Usually, these cheap abortionists use a crude
version of the D. and C. or the vacuum method. But
listen. Lacking the precise instruments the hospital
uses for the D. and C, the $5 and $10 operators may
insert: knitting needles, coat hangers, slippery elm
bark, chopsticks, ballpoint pens, artists' paintbrushes,
curtain rods, pencils, or even telephone wire. And the
walls of the uterus may be punctured by these
instruments. Death, from infection, hemorrhage, or
shock, may occur.
And as far as the vacuum method is concerned,
don't get the idea that you can just modify a vacuum
cleaner. That aspirator they use at the hospital is
precisely modified to have just the slight degree of
suction necessary to remove the uterine lining. A
vacuum-cleaner arrangement might remove the entire
uterus! Again, death from infection or hemorrhage
It's easy to understand that the death rates for these
five-and-dime abortions are rather high. Like, about
100 deaths per 100,000 operations.
Now, I talked recently with a woman who does $40
abortions. She argues with me that that figure is due
to a very few quacks and incompetents, and that she
has been performing abortions, mainly on poor teen-
agers and older women, for nearly ten years without a
single accident. She further argues that she's pro-
viding a needed service, and that being an abortion-
ist—or midwife, as she prefers to call herself— is a
respectable occupation, at least as much so as a nurse.
And, even as I was writing this chapter, I heard of a
lady abortionist, a farm wife, who has also been
performing cheap abortions for quite a few years,
with (supposedly) no fatalities.
It's still not a good idea.
But because thousands of women still go to obscure
corners of the city every month (due, no doubt to a
combination of expensive and busily reluctant doc-
tors, crowded and bureaucratic hospitals, and just
plain red tape) I just want to say this: if you go to a
non-medical abortionist (DON'T. But if you do . . .)
find out for damned sure that this person has been
performing successful abortions for a long time!
Keep talking. Keep talking to the people who told
you about this abortionist in the first place. Keep
asking, "And who else? And who else?" And then
look up those people.
Follow up on these stories by getting in touch with
as many girls as possible who've had abortions by the
person you're thinking of going to. If there are any
scary stories, that way you'll hear about them. If you
hear nothing but, "She knows what she's doing; don't
worry," then maybe she does know what she's doing.
But I would worry. I'd worry to the extent of going
to a hospital immediately afterward, even if you live
in a state where abortion isn't yet acceptable.
Go to the emergency room.
Say, "I think I'm bleeding inside and I'm fright-
ened." And say no more than that until you see a
doctor. He is required by law, now, to help you, and
if something did go wrong during your abortion, it
can be dealt with now.
But, just one more time: don't go to a non-medical
person in the first place. I know it's easier, if you live
in the inner city, than going through the hospital
rigamarole. But the agencies like Planned Parenthood,
CCS, and the free clinics are all set up to kind of act
as a buffer between you and the hospital so that you
have as little hassle as possible. And going to the
hospital is a lot safer. (And if you go someplace other
than a hospital to start with, you just might end up
there anyway. Clear?)
It must sound, after all this, like I am in favor of
abortions, at least physician-performed abortions.
I don't care how legal or how easy they are; it is still
easier NOT to need one. I don't care if an abortion is
as simple as having a tooth pulled. Even so, I'd still
rather spend my lunch hour somewhere else than in a
I think birth control is a grand idea; but abortion?
Well, why not just use the Pill and avoid the need for
Of course there are various methods of birth control
that differ from the Pill, in that they are permanent.
There are five different kinds of female sterilization,
to begin with:
oophorectomy (removal of ovaries)
hysterectomy (removal of womb or uterus)
salpingectomy (removal of Fallopian tubes)
tubal ligation (simply tying off of Fallopian tubes)
laparoscopy (tying off of Fallopian tubes by use of
a laparoscope, or "light pipe")
The first three methods, though completely safe,
are not such a good idea. They have side effects; and
following the operation, you have to take female
hormones, because they're not produced automatic-
Tubal ligation and laparoscopy are easier, generally
inexpensive, and followed by no worries and full
femininity. With both tubal ligation and laparoscopy,
you leave the hospital within twenty-four hours; and
a few doctors are beginning to perform the operation
on an out-patient basis.
However, although these two operations are simple
to perform, it can be difficult to get appointments for
There's no good reason why; but, evidently because
they are related to sexual functioning and the avoid-
ance of procreation, they activate latent Puritanism in
some hospital staffs, who may fear the censure of the
community as a whole at fund-raising time.
Many clinics and physicians have unspoken "quo-
tas" for tubal ligations and laparoscopics— say, fifty a
year, or one a week. More than that, they figure,
won't look good.
They may operate according to a so-called "Rule of
120" in order to hold down the number of these
female operations that are performed. The 120 rule
works like this: Multiply the woman's age times the
number of children she has. If the resulting figure is
120 or more, she can have her operation.
A friend of mine, a woman who will be thirty next
month and who has two children, would like to have
one, but has not been able to arrange it. Thirty times
two is sixty, not 120. When she's sixty, she can have
her laparoscopy, according to that rule.
And when I'm 120, I can have mine.
However, this is beginning to change, as I'm begin-
ning to find out, thanks in no small measure to the
Association for Voluntary Sterlization, 14 West 40th
Street, New York. I had a very enlightening talk with
Mr. John R. Rague, Executive Director of AVS, and
it seems that any couples wanting to be assured of
childlessness will find it much easier from now on.
For example: in at least thirty-four states, Blue
Cross and Blue Shield, as well as state Medicaid
programs, pay for voluntary sterilization.
Also: a new Department of Defense policy makes
voluntary sterilization more freely available to mili-
tary personnel and dependents.
And: if you have trouble finding a physician to
perform the operation, you can just write to AVS in
New York. They have a roster of over 1600 experi-
enced physicians, in all states.
Just by way of a statistic, there will be about
100,000 voluntary sterilizations in the U.S. this year,
bringing the total to well over two million.
The male operation, vasectomy, is increasing fastest
in popularity. Until recent years, more women than
men sought the operation (it was they, after all,'who
were closest to the burden of childbearing). But the
female operations are more delicate and costly than
In vasectomy, a small segment is removed from each
of the two tubes called the vas deferens, which carry
the sperm to the testicles. The ends of the tubes are
then tied off, so that sperm cells are not in the semen
that is ejaculated during love-making— and, the man
cannot make a woman pregnant. No widely used
form of male or female sterilization involves the
removal of any gland or organ; it just seals off certain
passageways which normally bring sperm and ovum
A vasectomy takes fifteen or twenty minutes. And
it's becoming increasingly popular. AVS and many
urologists are swamped with requests. One physician
compares the wave of popularity of the vasectomy to
the sudden and dramatic upsurge in the use of the Pill
about ten years ago.
And its effects on sexuality are similar. The Pill, by
* 10% of vasectomies arranged through AVS referrals in early 1970
were requested by men in their early 20's.
freeing hundreds of thousands of women from fear of
pregnancy, made these girls and women wildly sexy.
Female sterilization, too, increases a woman's sex-
uality; and vasectomy releases all a man's virility.
Arthur Godfrey and Paul Ehrlich are among well-
known men who, having had vasectomies themselves,
are enthusiastic about endorsing the operation.
Though they don't come right out and say that one
of the benefits is increased sexual enjoyment, others
do. When I talked to men who'd had the operation, I
found enthusiasm bordering on the evangelical— and
that was the reason!
To give a little scientific grounding to this reaction:
Judson T. Landis, way back in 1965, reported that a
questionnaire study was made of 330 couples who
had chosen vasectomy as a means of birth control.
The respondents reported great improvement in their
sex lives following the operation; also, for the entire
group, frequency of intercourse tended to be stepped
up. (That article was in February, 1965, Journal of
Marriage and the Family, in case you're interested in
Now, the vasectomies referred to in this and some
other of the older surveys had been performed on
middle-aged men whose wives had already had chil-
But Mr. Rague, at AVS, stresses that there is a
similar intensity of sexuality when younger men*
who have not fathered children have vasectomies.
Their follow-up studies at AVS are very thorough,
and show, in fact, that the popularity of the vasecto-
my may be increasing most among younger men. The
basic reason why a man becomes unrestrained sex-
ually, following the operation, is that the fear of
impregnating a woman is gone. But to young men
who are aware and concerned about the world popu-
lation as well as their own personal lives, a double
fear is removed.
By the way, vasectomy and tubal ligation are
usually reversible operations. That is, should you
change your mind, you can, well, change your mind.
But the rates of reversibility far outweigh the
requests for reversal. For example, studies have
shown up to 90% reversibility for men, and 65% for
How many men who have had vasectomies have
requested reversal? Less than one per cent. Requests
for reversal from women are slightly higher, but still
very, very slight.
Indicating that after most couples do escape the
baby trap, they like it.
Beyond the Baby Trap:
Coping with the Culture
"And when are you going to start your family?"
"You live in a Disneyland. When are you going to
grow up and settle down?"
"Lucy has three children; why don't you?"
Escaping the baby trap, physically, is as easy as taking
But there are more subtle factors operating psycho-
logically, factors that can weaken your will about the
Pill, factors that can undermine your confidence in
the Tightness of your decision not to have children.
There are pressures that can make you feel isolated,
different, even guilty, because you're childless. Pres-
sures that can tempt you to think, "Oh, it'd be so
much easier just to go ahead and get pregnant, just
like everybody else. Then maybe people would stop
hammering at me." Pressures that can accumulate and
be responsible for that "forgotten" Pill, that subcon-
You see, there's a pretty widespread social expecta-
tion of childbearing that Mark Flapan and Nathanial
Branden, among others, have spoken of.
"The great value of advancing civilization," accord-
ing to Nathanial Branden, "is that we have more and
more choices over how we will live our lives, rather
than fewer and fewer. And yet in the most crucial
and potentially life-denying decision, i.e., whether or
not to bear children, most people assume that they
have no choice at all. Most people proceed to have
children because they accept the notion that they are
And Mark Flapan, in a 1969 medical journal, says,
"Although women are increasingly free to choose
alternatives to motherhood as a way of life, women
who entertain the possibility of remaining childless
become keenly aware of the social expectation of
childbearing . . ."
He's putting it rather mildly.
Bill and I have, for six years, found ourselves
subjected to all the pressures I've mentioned in
previous chapters, but aimed straight at us by a
variety of social sharpshooters. You'll probably find
it that way, too, for a while, anyway, and especially
in smaller communities.
As time goes on, it will be easier. When a variety of
organizations, such as Zero Population Growth, have
successfully questioned our national preoccupation
with reproduction; and when lots of couples in
Dubuque and Peoria as well as in New York, Miami,
and L.A. have realized that when you stop breeding
you have more fun; then maybe we'll have a new and
valid cultural perspective about children.
And it will not be up to us, the childless" couples, to
justify our remaining childless. Rather, it will be the
responsibility of those who feel they want to have
children to justify themselves!
But for now, you've got to cope with an environ-
ment that's heavy with baby influences, a culture that
expects you to trade the swimming pool for the car
pool, the bikini for maternity garb.
In casual conversations, most people let you know
that it's just assumed that your childlessness is tem-
porary. They assume you'll get yourself in a "delicate
condition" eventually, and they're not always deli-
cate about asking about it.
"When are you going to start your family?" asks
Aunt Helen (and just about everybody else in the
I was always annoyed by the question. Always.
Even before Bill and I had definitely dismissed the
possibility of children, it seemed to me that people,
asking about such a profound influence on the rest of
your life, should allow you a decision beyond mere
timing. The question (and please take note, all Aunt
Helens) should not be, "When are you going to start
your family?" but "Are you planning to have a
There should be a choice, an option.
Even though you, too, have a perfect right to be
annoyed by the question, you cannot always dismiss
the questioner with a flip one-liner.
Oh, once in a while you can.
For example, you run into Frayna Loeb, a former
roommate you never could stand, at a downtown
department store. She hushes her four-year-old with a
sharp slap on the hand; complains that her five-year-
old has ("without permission, you bad boy, Johnny")
asked some little friends over for the afternoon so she
has to run home quick to fix peanut-butter-and-jelly
sandwiches; adjusts her one-year-old in the Toddler
Tote, saying "Thank goodness this one isn't quite old
enough to socialize yet"; then breaks off, looks at
you hard, and simps: "And what about you and Bill?
Don't you have any children yet?"
OK. Indulge yourself.
"Of course not. We're too smart for that." Or,
"Never! We're having too much fun!" And dash off
to meet your husband for lunch.
You and your husband can also use one-liners with
casual acquaintances and at cocktail parties.
Question: What's the matter? No kids yet? Don't you
Response: Yes. Other people's. And on occasion.
or: Yes. And we want to keep on liking children.
Comment: Lucy and Harry have three children.
Response: Yes, Lucy and Harry do have their prob-
Question: No children. But what do you do?
Response: I'm a wife, companion, mistress, social
director, planner of menus and reviewer of books
for the two of us, volunteer worker for the Sierra
Club and . . . (insert job description or additional
(Richard J. Margolis reports in the January 10, 1972,
NEW LEADER, "We continue to discover 'new'
poverty victims like the elderly Jews of New York,
whom we had thought were being cared for by their
children in Scarsdale.")
* * *
Question: Don't you believe in giving life?
Response: I believe in living life.
Question: Well, you should have children. We all have
the right to replace ourselves, don't we?
Response: Of course not. We don't, in all prob-
ability, have the right to be here ourselves.
* * *
Comment: But children are our greatest national re-
Response: At latest count, this "greatest national
resource" was found to amount to between sixty-
five and seventy million children under the age of
14. Perhaps that is enough.
Comment: My husband and I really find a lot of joy
in our children.
Response: My husband and I really find a lot of
joy in each other.
* * *
Comment: You won't have anybody to take care of
when you're old.
Response: Neither will you, I'm afraid. Children don't
very often take care of old parents.
* * *
Comment: Every real woman wants children.
Response: (smile) Every real woman wants a man. (If
talking to a woman, I follow this one up by
glancing in the direction of her husband.)
* * *
Comment: There's something a bit unnatural about
not having children.
Response: No, there's something a bit unnatural
about (choose one:) electricity; cars; clothing;
telephones; typewriters; ties; shoes; chlorine;
canned or frozen foods; the SST; that nailpolish
you're wearing; that tie you have on.
Comment: You two really have a sublimated desire
for children. After all, you have dogs.
Response: No, you have a sublimated desire for dogs.
You, after all, have children.
But that's for parties.
What do you do about your aunt, though, who
nursed your whole family through double pneumonia
when you were six, and took you to New York for
your fourteenth birthday, and loaned you an antique
brooch to wear to your junior prom, and who is just
living for the day you'll tell her, "I'm expecting."
And what about your husband's boss, who's terribly
nice to both you and Bill, has taken you out to
dinner, given Bill extra days off on your anniversaries,
and who thinks, since you and Bill are the finest
young people he knows, that it would be a goshawful
shame not to reproduce yourselves?
And what about your friends who have children and
are suddenly talking of babythings and looking at you
And what about your parents who feel they have a
"right" to grandchildren?
These people can't be put off with one-liners.
You either have to carry on a delicate and elaborate
charade ("Well, nothing's happened yet,") or you
have to explain somehow. The explanations are more
difficult than the charade, but let's try them:
CASE #1-AUNT HELEN
She's typical of the high-minded people who think
large families are religiously ordained. To her, child-
lessness is pitiful, if not immoral. (Of course, she
never married, so she escaped the realities and is able
to continue to view children as ideal.) She draws her
attitude, she says, from the Bible. "Be fruitful, and
multiply . . ." is the quote she uses.
Now, even if your reason for being childless is
simple preference, I would suggest being able to meet
Aunt Helen on her own grounds: biblical. Even if
you're not basing your decision on the Bible, there's
no reason you can't use it to justify your decision.
You might point out that the Bible is also con-
cerned with soil conservation, kindness to animals,
and preservation of trees; and that fruitfully multiply-
ing human beings interfere with all of these.
Overpopulation interferes with soil conservation.
"Every seventh year shall be a sabbath unto the land
... a year of rest unto the land," says Leviticus,
Chapter 25. Try that in a crowded country! Today,
nations give the land little rest; instead, the land is
polluted with the immensity of human wastes that
are the by-products of an enormous population.
Kindness to animals does not mean giving a pet
puppy or kitten to a five-year-old. It means, biblical-
ly, allowing those creatures which God or Nature
created to live.
Human overpopulation kills animals.
"Only moments ago in biological time," (Time,
June 8, 1970) "the earth abounded with a myriad of
animals, reptiles and fish . . . But since 1600 when the
first precise records were compiled, man has butch-
ered creatures ranging from the abalone to the blue
whale and the zebra. During the past 150 years . . .
the rate of extermination of mammals has increased
fifty-five-fold. If the killing goes on at this pace, in
about thirty years all of the remaining species of
mammals will be gone . . ."
The rather scary "red data book" of the Interna-
tional Union for the Conservation of Nature and
Natural Resources lists 835 (!) species that are on the
brink of disappearing forever.
Preservation of trees is quite clearly ordered in a
number of biblical books, Deuteronomy, Chapter 20,
for example: "When thou shalt beseige a city . . .
thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof . . . for the
tree of the field is man's life."
Dean L. Harold de Wolf of Wesley Theological
Seminary, Washington, D.C., holds that God sancti-
fied not only humanity but the whole fabric of life
("for the tree of the field is man's life . . .")
Man, by being too fruitful, is threatening the warp
of that fabric.
And as we destroy wildlife by cutting down its
forests, and as we efficiently slaughter trees both by
chainsaw and sulfur dioxide, and as we build our
"good for children" housing projects with cancerous
speed on the cleared land, we might ponder some-
thing else the Bible says:
"Shame on you! you who add house to house
and join field to field,
until not an acre remains,
and you are left to dwell alone in the land."
That's from Isaiah. Chapter 5, 1 think.
Human beings, left to dwell alone in the land,
having driven out all other creatures to make room
for their swelling numbers. That's what's being said
"Shame!" to. And it's not just a matter of shame, but
of suicide. For the things on this planet are linked,
one to the other. Destroying a part can destroy all.
Why are some of us so interested in birds and
wildlife? Quite apart from a John Muirian apprecia-
tion of them for themselves, there is also a selfish
concern. What happens to them happens to us. Why
are some of us so interested in the trees? Because
when "sulfur dioxide poisoning" goes on the death
certificate of two-thirds of California's ponderosa
pines, we can't help wondering: when will the first
hospital write those three words on a human death
Sulfur dioxide is an industrial by-product; and
industrialization is a by-product of burgeoning human
Now, that's a long speech to give somebody who's
simply said, "Be fruitful and multiply . . ." to you.
But you can select some points from it.
Or you might try interpreting "Cast your bread
upon the waters, and it shall return a thousandfold,"
for Aunt Helen. Bread is a food. Fine. Cast upon
waters, it returns, multiplied and re-formed, as food
from the sea.
But what if, instead of bread, we cast upon and into
our waters: pollutions, pesticides, oil, the solid sump
of a thousand thousand industries, mountainous hu-
man wastes. This, too, returns to us, as banks of
reeking fish, killed beds of undersea plants, oil-soaked
and screaming birds, death squared, death times
And of course those wastes, too, result from over-
abundant human life.
There's one more argument, a friend reminds me,
that can come from a well-meaning aunt: "If God had
intended for you not to have children, you'd have
been born with contraceptives. But you weren't. So
you're going against God and against Nature."
Well, you see, God and Nature may have intended
for some of us to have children, for many children to
be born . . . but let's not stop there: it was also
intended for many of the children born to die.
We've messed with that being-born-and-dying sys-
tem. We've given ourselves Pasteur and penicillin,
vitamins, antibiotics, and heart transplants. We have
ingenious systems for completely replacing the blood
of some defective newborns and for turning around
the skin on children who are born inside out. (Yes,
that happens once in a while; the condition is known
And that's not what God intended either.
What was intended was for there to be a balance.
And it's to keep things in balance, Aunt Helen, that
some of us prefer not to have children.
Maybe you've never even thought of having such a
conversation. It does take nerve. We get used to
answering the Aunt Helen's in our lives with soft
excuses. But a candid talk can be gratifying. Aunt
Helen, once we explain our feelings, may even under-
stand. But unless we explain, we can't expect her to.
After all, when she was growing up, people didn't
realize what they were doing. Facts about the popula-
tion explosion and its consequences weren't common
currency then. And other options for living just
Now, with people who are capable of providing
greater pressure than Aunt Helen, like friends your
own age who have children, you can use some
variation of the ecological or personal argument—
Or, there are some dodges you can use when Sheila
and Mike come over.
CASE #2-SHEILA AND MIKE
Mike shows off snapshots of Mike, Jr., when he's
not showing off Mike, Jr., in person. And Sheila talks
about nothing but motherhood, Mike, Jr., and the
new baby, Juliette.
Your husband can counter the snapshot-showing
Mike's doing by simply producing something else.
Snapshots of the two of you are ideal. Or, he can
simply say, "Hey, that reminds me, I had something I
wanted to show you," and that "something" can be
anything, related or unrelated: book, record, maga-
zine article, latest New Yorker cover, notes on a
project at work.
Your conversation with Sheila may be a bit more
complicated but you can use the same sort of parry.
When Sheila says something like, "I was never so
happy as when I was pregnant," you can say, "/ was
never so happy as last night . . ." (and tell her
whatever it was you did last night.)
The Sheila's of our acquaintance won't always let us
get away with this, though. They often take the
subject back to pregnancy and even say, "Well, gee,
why don't you have a baby?" Continue the cop-out:
"Oh, Sheila, we're just so busy as it is . . ." and
continue your recital of activities.
Why avoid an open, honest discussion with Sheila
Because they— especially Sheila— are pressuring you
a bit. And people who pressure you are probably
"Many of the people who urge (emphasis mine]
married couples to have children and try to make
them feel guilty if they do not, are resentful of the
freedom and enjoyment of life shown by childless
couples. 'I'm tied down with a life I dislike because of
my having a family; why shouldn't you be likewise?'
is what is unconsciously being thought by some of
the people who are overtly saying, 'Nothing like kids
to make life worthwhile; you shouldn't be without
That's Albert Ellis talking there, not me, by the
If Sheila and Mike really make a big deal out of how
glorious it is to have children, you can suspect they're
the ones Albert Ellis is talking about. They're acting.
And people acting a role ("Happy Parents") can't
usually relate to a real discussion ("Parenthood in
Perspective"). So to keep their friendship, just evade
their urgings rather than explain your feelings.
Either of the two common reasons for childless-
ness—ecology or personal preference— can have a neg-
ative effect on your friendship. Talking about the
population pressures can imply that they're foggily
unaware of same or acted heartlessly in having chil-
dren if they were aware of the problem. And explain-
ing that you have better things to do with the next
twenty years of your life can seem, no matter how
delicately it's phrased, to be condescending.
This isn't to say that you keep quiet about all your
activities and projects; of course you talk about these.
Share all your experiences with them, just as they
share child-raising with you. The exchange gives
everybody a slightly better perspective.
But sometimes you have to be careful, even about
Dave and Sandy, who have no children and know
many Sheila-and-Mike's, find that the weeks just after
vacations can be a bit of a problem.
"For example," Dave said, "we went on a long
cruise last November. No particular reason, really.
Sandy just felt like going someplace glamorous, and I
love to give her what she wants. We relaxed, got a tan
before the holidays. Sandy looks terrific with a tan,
especially since she wears those glittery outfits to
winter parties . . . Well, our neighbors didn't forgive
us for weeks. You see, our mistake was, we came
back too full of enthusiasm about the cruise. And our
neighbors can take that, in the summer, because at
least when we come back from the Caribbean, they've
been to Ocean City. So we can trade stories. But they
really resented last November. Then, they hadn't
Sandy agreed. "You have to be very careful after
vacations. But there are a few things that can help.
"In the first place," according to Sandy, "act very
glad to be home. That reassures everybody that
they're pretty well-off after all, since even after a
fancy trip, you're happy to be back.
"In the second place, don't tell them everything
that happened at once. That's hard, because we come
back with so much to tell. But to people who are tied
down with kids, it can be a real slap in the face. Just
mention one thing at a time, and they can absorb it
better, without feeling envious.
"In the third place— this might sound silly, like a
bribe— but do it. Bring back souvenirs for the kids. If
you bring back little things, as well as just stories
about Paradise Island and San Juan, it helps make
your friends more a part of it. They're more willing
to hear about what happened, and everybody gains
Sandy, too, believes in being patient when girl-
friends talk about their pregnancies and their chil-
In fact, besides passively "putting up with" talk
about their children's grades and games, you might
even take an active interest in friends' children as the
children grow up.
Bill and I baby-sit once in a while for friends whose
budget sometimes won't cover both the movie and a
sitter. And last summer I helped teach an adorable
four-year-old named Danny how to swim.
In fact, if I say so myself, 1 have good ideas about
the details of child-raising, once in a while. Last week,
for example, a "Sheila" we know complained that a
gold-star chart she had made to reward her three-year-
old for washing his hands was just not working. He
didn't put the stars in the squares, it seemed, so there
was no steady progress that might have motivated
him to complete the chart.
Well, if he doesn't like squares, I suggested, why not
get a blank cardboard and stars in different colors and
let him make a free-form design? (That seems to be
working. But if it doesn't, I have another idea. A dark
blue cardboard with a half moon, full moon, or
whatever moon we have this week, and he can arrange
the stars into constellations. Astronomy as motiva-
tion for hand washing. Well, that's what the great
universal abstractions reduce down to, sometimes.)
The point is, you can take part in bringing-up-kids
discussions, even though you have no kids of your
own. Just make a few common-sense suggestions now
and then. You can also take part in parties and
outings for youngsters, if you're so inclined.
Rex and Diane Roupe of Des Moines, Iowa, for
example, gave an egg hunt in the park one Easter
Sunday. (Complete with ponies, games, refreshments,
prizes.) All the children in the neighborhood came.
"We were up half the night hiding all those eggs,"
Diane and several other childless girls I talked to
feel that, far from dividing you from friends who do
have children, the fact that you are childless can
make you even closer friends. After all, you're avail-
able to appreciate their children, not brag about your
That, of course, is an ideal situation; and, though I
hope it's one you find often, I don't want to paint
too rosy a picture. With a certain "Sheila and Mike"
of our acquaintance, a continued friendship just
wasn't worth the effort. Their pressure on us was
continual; not an evening with them passed without
the "Why don't you have your own kids?" questions.
And Sheila said, "Childbirth is the greatest experi-
ence and I was happiest when pregnant," once too
often. And I just decided to say what I was thinking.
"Well, just what is it you like, Sheila— children or
pregnancy? What do you mean, you were happiest
when pregnant? Because of the attention you got?
Well, you see, I don't need that. Bill gives me plenty
of attention anyway. But frankly, Mike doesn't seem
all that intent on you anymore. He talks about the
kids, sure, but I haven't heard him talk about you
lately. And what do you mean, childbirth is the
greatest experience? What about making love with
Mike? Isn't that just as exciting to you?"
"Oh, Ellen, there's no comparison," she said.
"Childbirth is so much more intense. It— lasts so
"Not for everybody, maybe."
"No, what I mean is, the aftereffects last longer.
When you have a baby, it's always there, to remind
you of how happy you were when he was born . . .
[Very sad statement, that. Very common, but very
sad. That brief euphoric happiness following child-
birth leaves quickly. Hoping to re-achieve it, some
women, like this "Sheila," become pregnant and
pregnant again, and pregnant once more, hoping to
find that feeling again and make it last this time. It
doesn't work. The only way to improve the man-and-
woman relationship is to work with those two: the
man and the woman. Children do not help: they
"I mean," she continued, "the child is a reminder
that the two of you went through that wonderful
experience of childbirth . . ."
"Well, Bill and 1 don't need reminders of anything,
really. We don't need to be reminded that we were
once in love; we still are. And we don't need to recall
wonderful experiences; we're still having them."
Following that, Sheila and Mike didn't talk too
much more to us about having children. Of course,
we don't see them that much anymore, either. And I
rather regret that. My only point in telling this story
is to point up the consequences that complete candor
Now, it goes without saying that some of the
Sheilas and Mikes that we must tiptoe around may
not be "friends" in a very real sense. But to set very
high requirements for friends can be to sharply
restrict the number of people you know. I think it is
possible to learn from people without being com-
pletely like them, (and may be without completely
liking them). I think you can share ideas and have
enjoyable mutual experiences without being mutually
In short, do as I say, not as I did, in that particular
situation. Have more patience than I did; try not to
write off the Sheilas and Mikes you know. Co-exist.
Now, some couples, probably better friends of
yours, would also like to see you have children. And,
unlike Sheila and Mike, they're not acting out se-
lected scenarios from The Happy Family. Though
their arguments are sometimes essentially the same,
the tone of discussions you'll have with them is
different. They won't push you. They simply would
like to share something that's been enjoyable to
CASE #3-LINDA AND HENRY
Linda has several reasons for having children that
seem good. In the first place, she says, "I love Henry
so much, I simply wanted to have his baby. Adopting,
or caring for other children part-time, simply
wouldn't have been the same. I wanted the baby to
look like him."
I love my husband, too, is the simplest response, so
much that I don't want to change our relationship. I
don't want to have any constant demands on my
attention that would take my attention from him.
Now, there's another, more complicated overtone
to her argument. By saying she wants a baby that
looks like her husband, Linda is expressing a desire to
feel that the baby is theirs, in a biological sense of
carrying their genes, and, by implication, their family
traditions. A desire for a kind of immortality,
through offspring, is involved. (If having a baby that
looked like Henry were all that mattered, adoption
would present no problem. Cooperative agencies will
place a child in a home with parents who resemble
the child, physically.) But certainly natural children
are no more to be counted on than adopted children
to continue family traditions; the traditions of all
cultures are changing too quickly. And certainly it is
just as worthwhile to work to help, and win the
respect of, the community within your lifetime as to
count on a hoped-for "immortality" via your children
in their community, after your death.
And Linda, too, presents the "childbirth as experi-
ence" argument. (Everyone does.) Without pressuring
you, she simply says she can't understand why you'd
want to deprive yourself of the experience of child-
birth. You believe in experience, don't you? she asks.
Of course you believe in experience, is your answer.
But there are many valuable experiences, some of
which children would shut you off from. Describe
honestly any experience you've ever loved or look
forward to having, whether it's swimming in the
Aegean or absorbing the music and meaning of New
Orleans' Preservation Hall; or talking to an ambassa-
dor, or visiting a Hindu shrine; watching still-wild
animals roam across a still-free Australian plain; mak-
ing snowballs on an Alp or making love in a castle; or
the experience of devoting yourself to making the
world a better place for Linda's children. There is
such a wealth of things to be experienced that I can
get lost just thinking about them. And I cannot be
convinced, in the face of all the world has to offer,
that there is anything unique about maternity hospi-
Yes, Linda says, but don't you want to share all
these values and delights with another generation?
We want to share our experiences, yes. We will talk
about them, and we will write about them. But there
is a period of at least ten years when the delights of
children are different from, and in some ways incom-
patible with, the things we treasure as adults. (How
many parents have had to coax children to put away
their comic books and please look at the Grand
Canyon?) The experiences that you and your hus-
band will share will be, to some extent, different
from the experiences Linda and Henry will have with
their children. Both may be fulfilling. This is the
important thing: there is no one pattern of fulfill-
ment as a woman. Linda has found one pattern
(though it is a mistake, to my way of thinking, to
consider parenthood in itself as fulfilling; to make it
so, you must be actively a part of the world your
child grows up in) and you are finding another.
And there is no one single experience that is central
to a full life. Although, to my mind, love-making
comes close, 1 would not try to convince religious
celibates, who think differently, of this.
Linda may also say, "Well, I love life, and so I
wanted to give life."
Your answer to that: there are many ways of giving
life. One of the best is not having children. Too many
people, as experts have been explaining for the last
few years, destroy life rather than create it. By
creating life on a small scale (babies) you can harm
life as a whole (by drawing heavily on the world and
its resources to raise those babies). This statement is
particularly true in the United States. Because of our
high pattern of consumption, one American child
consumes (i.e., destroys) as much of the stuff of the
world as fifty (!) children born in India.
Henry may quite matter-of-faetly express his feel-
ing, too. "Well," he says, "I just wanted to have some
say in how one member of the next generation grows
There are other ways. You can teach. You can join
a Big Brother or Big Sister program. You can Send-a-
Kid-to-Camp. You can support a Navajo Indian child
through a charity, open your home to an inner-city
youngster, or contribute to a scholarship fund. You
can help with open-space and urban recreation proj-
Furthermore, it may be somewhat naive to think
that parents have a lot to say about how their
children grow up. Kahlil Gibran wrote, "Your chil-
dren are not your children ..." and it is true. Parents
don't raise their children, when you get right down to
it. The world does. Maybe you and your husband
prefer working with the world.
The point is, if Linda and Henry are really friends
of yours, you'll understand, and accept, each other's
point of view, and that's that. That's the difference
between Linda and Henry and the Sheila-and-Mike
type. Linda and Henry are not compulsive about
forcing you to convert to their point of view; they
just want to make sure you know and understand
that point of view.
CASE #4-YOUR HUSBAND'S BOSS
And what do you say to Mr. Ellis, who takes you
both to lunch and dinner whenever he can, listens
with enthusiasm to every project you get involved
with, and just digs you kids so much that he and his
wife think it's unthinkable for you to think of not
On first hearing of your decision, Mrs. Ellis will ask,
"No children? But what are you going to do for the
rest of your life?"
This answer is individual; you simply tell her what
you plan to do. Or maybe your answer is that you
don't know yet, in specific terms, but you just want
to live in the world with your husband and be a part
of as many forces in the world as possible.
"Well," Mr. Ellis coughs, "you can still do a lot if
you have kids, not everything, maybe, but a lot. And
it just seems kind of a shame not to have kids, as nice
as you two are."
"Well, we can't really see it that way," your
husband explains. "In fact, it's kind of a shame to
have kids. They'd be growing up in such an over-
crowded society, where it would he so difficult to
have any individual recognition. We just don't feel the
need to contribute to the overcrowding. In fact, we'd
like to see a trend to not having children. Why
shouldn't the United States, leader of living stand-
ards, lead the way to a really good quality of life, by
stressing just that: quality and not quantity of popu-
lation. Raise fewer children the next generation; and
raise them better."
"Oh, you're overemphasizing that overcrowding
thing. It's all a matter of distribution; plenty of room
"Well, it's not a matter of people and square feet.
It's a matter of people and resources. Right now,
we're spending the planet's capital, you know— burn-
ing the fossil fuels, using up the air and water."
"I'm not saying you should contribute very much
to it; we didn't. You could just have one child, like
"Well, you see, Mr. Ellis, I would feel sorry for that
child. What kind of world would it grow up in? It
bothers me, to think of a baby growing up in a
society that's so filled with compartments, catego-
"Maybe there's no getting away from the restric-
tions; and maybe some of them are even good, but
they bother me. Have you read about the government
files being kept on hundreds of thousands of people?
Supposedly, these people are potential threats, but
some of them have just signed one peace petition.
"Now, I don't know. Maybe it's necessary to keep
tabs on troublemakers. Maybe if they'd had more of
that in '63, Kennedy wouldn't have been shot in
Dallas, because they'd have known about Oswald and
nabbed him. But it all smacks too much of Brave New
World to me. And it all gets back to numbers, doesn't
it? More people have fewer freedoms. A baby born
today would have to face a lot of restrictions. And I
just couldn't feel right to bring a child into that kind
of world. I know / wouldn't want to grow up during
the next twenty years, and I don't think you would,
either . . ."
"Well, then, if people like you, who feel that way,
don't have any children, you're selectively breeding
out of the race people with any sensitivity to freedom
and the nature of the individual."
"Let's hope not. Regardless of how insensitive the
people of this generation who have children are, if
there are fewer people in the next generations, a new
sense of the individual can be acquired. Maybe people
can feel like human beings again, instead of automa-
tons . . ."
"Maybe," Mr. Ellis responds, "maybe."
But you may have to go through a similar dialog
every few weeks or so.
CASE #5-YOUR PARENTS
This is tough.
Telling your parents that you don't intend to have
any children is so difficult, in fact, that I know at
least a dozen girls (some married as long as ten years)
who just haven't been able to do it.
"To her dying day, Mother will just have to think
we tried to have children and couldn't," one girl told
me. "You see, if I were to try to tell her that we
don't think it's necessary, that we don't see any
reason for having kids— well, there's no way, just no
way to do that. That would be knocking down the
only thing she did do with her life. She devoted
herself to raising us; she had no life of her own. I
intend to have a life of my own. But I just cannot tell
Another girl also avoided an explanation to her
parents, but had an interesting and constructive ap-
proach that added to their lives immeasurably: "What
my folks really want is to do a certain amount of
living through grandchildren. Well, we try to let them
share our lives as much as possible, especially when
we do something that's new to them. For example,
we got it into our heads once that we'd go to an
opera opening. I bought a simply— well, I can't find
words to describe that dress. But you see, I'm pretty
casual, usually; I keep shortening my college Pendle-
ton's and wear them to work and to parties, and this
was a real change.
"It was a black and copper print, like a French toile
mixed with a bit of Beardsley, with an immense
copper belt. And we had a great time, and I spent
about an hour writing my folks about it, and his,
telling them everything from the story of the opera,
to the conversations we had at intermission, to the
way every third guy in the foyer kept pretending to
be blinded by that copper belt . . . oh, and our
pictures were taken by a news photographer. That
was unreal; we laughed after he went away and tried
to imagine what would go on at the society desk the
next day as they tried to figure out who those
unknown socialites were ... As a matter of fact, we
ended up calling the paper, since we were fairly sure
they wouldn't run the picture, and they gave us two
"But, anyway, when we do anything out of the
ordinary— which we do, quite often, we write about
it, at great length. That's what I mean about sharing
our own life with them. It's a good thing to do; and I
even think you have an obligation to do it."
Another couple has been trying an even more direct
approach for some time— seven years, in fact.
"You know, our parents are still asking us vague
little things like 'Well, Donna, are you two going to,
uh, settle down soon?' or 'Are you going to have any,
uh, news for us one of these months?'
"Now, by this time, they have to know we're not
interested in the suburb-and-station-wagon thing. But
we don't say so. We've been saying 'No, we don't
think so,' or 'No, not a sign,' for so long it's gotten to
be a joke between us."
The girl I was talking to got a little sad. "You
know," she said quietly, "they even have tried a little
bit of good-natured bribery. Dad said, 'Yes, I've really
got the business where I want it now. Got it built up
to something I'd be proud to pass on, you know what
I mean? Got some trust funds for college set up, no
names on 'em yet . . .' "
That is a pathetic speech and must indicate a great
desire for grandchildren. Yet, as Dr. Robert Gould
pointed out in a New York Times article last year,
what such men ultimately want goes beyond grand-
children: they want to rekindle an interest in life, a
sense of importance.
The girl I was talking to evidently realized that.
"Meanwhile, what we're trying to do is encourage
them to get out in the community and find some
interests, so they won't feel so empty, and won't
need grandchildren. I clip the 'What's Going On'
section of the newspaper sometimes. 'Boy, I wish I
could get to that show,' I'll say to Mom. 'If you make
it, would you tell me what is was like?'
"Maybe that will take hold, after a while. And I'm
truly serious with that technique, you know; I would
like to hear about some of the things I can't attend
afternoons because of work. Dad's proving more
malleable than Mom, actually. He took our suggestion
and joined a golf club, and that led to all kinds of
things. He ran into an old friend who was running for
city office, for instance, and is doing part-time can-
vassing for him and having a ball!
"So maybe the questions will stop, after a while,
because they'll have their own interests to talk about.
And when they stop asking the questions, then we
can start considering answering them ..."
One 35-year-old bank officer was lucky. "Our prob-
lem was solved," he told me, "when my parents tried
reverse psychology with us. They started saying, 'We
certainly think you and Rita are right not to have
children. This certainly isn't a world we'd bring
children into, either.'
"Then they'd go on with all the ecology arguments,
just to really play the role and show how thoroughly
they understood our feelings.
"What happened is that they really began to see it
our way! So, we're lucky, as far as my parents are
concerned, anyway. Now, if they'd only get together
with Rita's folks . . ."
I found very few couples who told their parents,
straight out, of their decision not to have children.
Bill and I did, of course. (But then, we had to; I was
writing this book.) We could have anyway, because if
your parents are actively involved in their own life,
and therefore not dependent on you, you can be
honest with them.
The problem is also eased if there are other grand-
children in the family. ( Your problem is eased, anyway;
of course it's tough on your brothers or sisters who
had the kids.)
But there usually will be a strong problem with
parents. Parents vary. Some may say nothing, and yet
you know they'd be thrilled if you were to become
pregnant. Other, more aggressive parents may be
quite direct with verbal pressures or even bribes.
And there's no denying it feels good to please
people. If you know that your parents would be
ecstatic, you may even wonder if you have a right to
deny them that happiness. After all, they raised you
with certain implicit assumptions, one of which was
that you would have children of your own.
Ultimately, though, you cannot live your life to
please other people, whether they are neighbors,
people you work with, or the man and woman who
raised you. If you and your husband know that it is
right for you not to have children, then don't be
afraid to face the culture with confidence, if not with
complete candor; and expect it to accept you.
Eventually, it will.
It is easy for us to see, then, that we do not want to
spend our lives baby-raising. But at least, for those
who choose it, the road is well-marked: Enfamil.
Gerber. The PTA.
To live a less-usual life style is an unpredictable
Once we reject the maternal role, we are out of step
with the girls in the station wagons at the super-
markets. We are on bikes or in, perhaps, a Fiat
custom convertible. And do not count on finding us
at the supermarkets. We are elsewhere. We are free.
But where are we? And what are we free to do?
Anything, of course. But the complexity of choices
can bewilder us into inertia. What do we want to do?
Devote ourselves to a charity or a politician? Teach?
Write? Take modeling lessons, study the guitar, or
learn Japanese floral arranging? Or immerse ourselves
in the business and personal emotions and competi-
tions of the urban office-city?
And where are the guidelines, the media models,
and the columns of helpful hints for us? The maga-
zines are filled with spoon-feeding, fight-stopping,
koffee-klatching supermommies. But where do we see
ourselves in the magazines? Where do we see wives as
women— attuned to men, rather than children? Where
do we see a wife reading something that will enrich
her conversationally, teasing her husband into an
evening of needed extravagance, or tempting him into
bed as he's changing for dinner?
Such examples are rare.
Partly because of this lack, the next three chapters
have been less than easy. It is always easier, I think,
to reject an established life style than to define a new
one. And a reaction to this book might be, "Well, she
shows at great length why having children may be a
bad idea; but she's a bit wavery on just what you're
supposed to do otherwise." This may be true, and I'm
sorry if it is. But I am twenty-seven years old; I
haven't had a lifetime of experience in living. My
husband and I are still in the process of finding
directions for ourselves.
But I will try to show what I've done with my life
without children, to this point at least. And, perhaps
of more value, I'll describe what some other girls and
women without children have done, mixing in facts
about their jobs, some of their thoughts about life,
love, men and marriage.
I think all the stories have some value, though you'll
find some contradictions. (Karen Kramer of New
York states firmly that men are more interested in
ideas than meals; Carole Ann Tucker of Los Angeles
states just as firmly that marinades or a good bernaise
or hollandaise are ideas in themselves.) On the basis
of your own tendencies and your own husband, you
will make your own amalgam.
All the stories do demonstrate, though, that beyond
the baby trap lots of doors are open.
and a Few Other Things
You're nobody till somebody hires you.
I've had a zillion jobs. I've taught, typed, modeled for
a total of one ad campaign, acted in a total of one
play, and filled out accident reports for an insurance
company. I've fund-raised for political candidates,
volunteer-worked for consumer and conservation
causes, and catalogued books in a library. What else?
Nurse's aide, Kelly Girl, file clerk, secretary, recep-
tionist, and cocktail waitress.
I was rather a bust as a cocktail waitress (I kept
eavesdropping on the interesting tables and giving
slow service to the dull ones); and filling those
car -accident forms gave me a lasting skepticism about
But other than that, I've liked everything. And I
think there's value to a wide variety of working
situations. If you aren't intent on building a career
record within a particular field and if there's no cause
to which you're ready to commit yourself complete-
ly, then I think you should switch jobs every so
often, too. Without the stimulation of new circum-
stances, I think it's possible to start doing your
job— and everything else— by rote.
Many of the girls I talked to agreed.
One job changer is Karen, who's had an interesting
string of Manhattan secretarial situations and an
interesting marriage to artist Gary Kramer.
Karen and Gary met in Florence. "I was on a
study-abroad program; only that summer I wasn't
studying. My roommate and I," explains Karen, "had
a place overlooking a busy Italian street, where kids
who knew kids who knew us would just drop in.
Average occupancy was about ten.
"But that afternoon I was alone, trying to sleep in
spite of the noises from the street. There was a knock
on the door, though, and the guy said, 'Hi. I know
Dorothy. Can I come in?'
"We talked. He was from Chicago. I was from New
York. He was studying under an art scholarship. (I, as
I said, wasn't studying.) We talked some more. He
said he'd like to paint me. I asked what his name was.
'Gary,' he said. 'I'd love for you to paint me,' I said.
'I'm twenty years old,' I added. 'Why did you tell me
that?' he wanted to know. And of course I couldn't
tell him the reason was that he looked twenty-seven
and I was barely eighteen. 'Oh, I don't know,' I said.
'When are you going to paint me?'
"Well, that's been a long time ago— eight years, as a
matter of fact. After that summer, Gary stayed in
Florence and commuted to see me in Rome on
weekends. At some time or other, he said, 'Will you
marry me?' and I said, 'Yes,' and it was such a natural
assumption that we went right on with our conversa-
tion. Which was about art, by the way.
"It's hard to condense the essence of a marriage
into a few words," Karen continued, "but there were
two things that were important to us: each other and
Gary's work in art. Not necessarily in that order. In
fact, Gary said that art was 51% of his life, and I'd be
the other 49%!
"We came back to New York and got married; he
taught art history while I finished the dreary final
hours for a B.A. I'd often be tempted to cut a class
and spend all afternoon on a gourmet dinner, to show
what a domestic little wife I could be. But to an
artist like my husband, food is always less interest-
ing than an idea. And he was far more fascinated by
details of tudor history and archicture than in
details of what-trouble-I-had-chopping-up-the-bread-
cubes. Trouble was, his teaching wasn't leaving him
any time for painting. It got to be pretty clear that
if he were really to develop his style and skill, that
teaching job had to go. And it did.
"This," she interrupted herself to emphasize, "is to
me one of the important reasons for not having
children. Marriage was never meant to put a man
under continual obligation. I think that a man has to
be free to do what he wants with his life. Gary
wouldn't have been free, if we'd had kids, because we
would have needed two incomes. That would have
"As it happened, the matter was quite simple. He
quit teaching. And I guess this brings me to what I've
been doing. My first job, which I took approximately
one second after graduation, was for a funny, two-
man film company, where there was nothing to do. I
mean nothing. No correspondence, no customers, no
salesmen, no files, no films. Just two men in an office
waiting for something to happen.
"What did I do? I read about two novels a day. And
my most crucial task was serving them coffee con-
stantly. At one point, I decided I wasn't being
sufficiently challenged and left.
"My next job was doing research for a television
film series on middle-class Black America. The series
never made it. But the insight I gained into how an
emerging society organizes itself (almost strictly on
the white model, in this case) was more fantastic than
any ten college soc. courses. And of course I shared
all this with Gary, and we both learned a great deal.
"The really devastating job was as researcher for the
Johnson Commission report. The hours were a panic.
Some days I'd be home all day; other days, out at 7
a.m. Or, I might be phoned at midnight and told, by a
New York radio station, 'The log your supervisor
requested will be available for the next hour only.'
And Gary would be out hailing a cab while I grabbed
clothes and a notebook."
Karen has also worked for several New York pub-
lishers and is in the process of learning something
about art herself: she's becoming a potter.
"All of the jobs I've had have kept both Gary and
me in touch with different things happening in the
world ... we talk for hours every evening, just hours.
Gary gets out himself, of course, but the fact that he
hasn't had to, on a regular basis, has left him free to
develop his style and skill as an artist."
Gary, according to Karen, "began as an abstract
expressionist" (I hesitated as I was taking notes,
thinking, "Oh yeah, that's when you can't recognize
the object . . .") "but he's moved into a unique sort
of realism. It's vivid, alive, full of surfaces; and those
surfaces can put the focus of a painting in front of
the canvas. Actually that's continuing a trend that
started with cubism, but Gary's taken it about ten
steps farther than anyone else . . ."
Karen's enthusiasm was so high that I wasn't keep-
ing up with her. There are only phrases, from this
point, in my notebook: "As far as texture, he could
be compared to Pollock," ". . . shares with Stella a
concern for a colored field . . ."
Does he sell?
"He will, when he's ready. He's had some grand
offers, but nearly always turns them down. Two
exceptions: no, three. A famous actress' husband has
one of his paintings, and a big Texas art collector, and
our plumber. Gary was home when the plumber came
to fix the sink; and the plumber said, 'Gee, that's
great! I love it!' And so he now owns a Gary Kramer
"One of the things Gary and I value very much,"
she said, shifting to another thought, "is our freedom
to be just with each other, to do just what we
want . . ."
The word was used by almost every couple I
interviewed. The childless couples' ways of living
showed enjoyment of it; the couples with children
regretted not having it.
The Kramers have it; another artist-couple I inter-
viewed did not. In fact, the first thing said when I
told them I'd like to talk to them about their
marriage was, "Well, it'd be nice to go out once in a
while, when we wanted to, instead of arranging for a
sitter two weeks in advance!"
In the case of this second couple, the girl, pressured
by her mother not to take birth control pills, became
pregnant and gave birth to twins five years ago. (She
has taken the Pill since.)
"If we had the money," she added.
This couple, too, lives in New York, but they talk
about their life and their jobs without enthusiasm.
Both were promising artists; now, just plain poverty
and the pressure of caring for two young children are
destroying her potential (by her own admission) and
cutting into his. "Who feels like painting," she says,
"when you come home from the nine-to-five? Who's
got the time, with all that's got to be done around
here? I've all but given it up."
Her husband sells his paintings, when he can. "He'd
better," the wife says, "or we'll be walking in bare
feet and have pediatricians' bills for wallpaper."
He also drives a cab; in fact, he usually manages to
drive by their apartment about eight to take the
children to nursery school and drop off his wife at
her office job in the east 70's.
This second girl, like Karen, has had a variety of
secretarial jobs. Unlike Karen, she doesn't share very
much with her husband. "What do we talk about?
The kids, the money, and that's it," her husband said.
She doesn't talk to him for hours in the evening; she
evidently has nothing to say about however she has
spent her day.
And that's regrettable.
There is a lot of variety within the secretarial
experience. Any office is rich with human feelings
and activity: office personality rivalries; account com-
petitions; good guy-versus-bad guy management strug-
gles; love, rejection, and the expense account. Modern
civ. condensed to four floors.
But may be you can get involved in all this, really
get into it and learn from it, only if you're not
pressured all day thinking about things that need to
be done when you get home to the kids. (There will
be those who disgaree with that as a generalization.
But sometimes it is true. Virginia Satir spoke of the
principle underlying this in another context: "The
human situations that exist in every contact can be
meaningless if the wife is worried about the kids and
Karen, and the second girl, could have worked in
the very same office. And Karen would have been
open to experience; the second girl would not have
been. Karen would have taken home a lot from her
job; the second girl? Probably nothing.
A girl named Marcia finds her secretarial job fasci-
nating, partly because she has an interesting reason
for working where she does.
Marcia is twenty-six, wildly gorgeous (I guarantee
you, if you were just to visualize what you'd like to
look like, the result would be Marcia), moderately
liberal, and she likes to play her boss-secretary scenes
in conservative companies.
Right now she's with the biggest copper company in
the industry, where it seems she's changing some
people's minds about metals, defense, and big govern-
She does not believe in job switching.
"It's too easy to leave a job before you learn
anything, or know anybody," she says. "Let me give
you an example. There was a man, at the job I had
before this one, who always seemed so withdrawn, so
lonely. He was about forty-five. He worked in the
stock room, always got to work and left on the
minute, said 'hello' and not much else. After I'd
worked there two years, he started talking to me one
day, about the Indians of the Southwest. Turns out
he's really an expert, quietly writes articles for a
natural history magazine and is a blood brother of
one of the tribes. Now that's one person who'd have
been just a cipher to me— one person I wouldn't have
known— if I'd left that job after six months.
"But I'm talking as though getting to know people
is my reason for working. For some girls, it is. Not for
me. I think you have to have some overall cause,
overall reason, for whatever you're doing. Here's how
it is with me. For some personal reasons— like a
brother who got killed in '68, and Wally could have,
too; he was in the service then— I'm just plain anti-
Pentagon. And I look for a boss who's pro-Pentagon.
And I try to change his thinking.
"Both Wally and I are quiet reformers. We don't
organize rallies and carry banners or live in 'Look
how pure we are' communes. That's just not our
style. I like comfort. I like pink soap, instant foods,
and running water." ("I once found her the only
cabin in northern Alberta with full bath and shower,"
Wally interrupted.) "And I like fashion."
She looked very fashionable. Clouds of brown hair,
artfully cut. Eyes by Eve of Roma, face framed by
fringed leather that was either a necklace or a mini-
serape: it reached to the shoulders. The pants suit was
fluid, India-ink-black, and I had the feeling I'd seen it
in Vogue or someplace.
At this point, Wally interrupted her. "We go to
Washington to do some informal lobbying, once in a
while, just looking up our congressmen and talking to
them. Marcie divides her time between Capitol Hill
and the Georgetown shops! One time, in fact, a new
designer boutique was opening when we were there.
The owner saw Marcie, and offered to give her any
outfit, free, if she'd be seen around Georgetown that
night and tell anybody that asked her where the
outfit came from!"
"Of course I took him up on that!" she laughed.
"But listen, sure I like clothes. But I also like to be
able to vote. And believe me I'd like more of a choice
about who I vote for sometimes. Wouldn't it have
been great, two years ago, to have had a choice
between a businessman and a poet, instead of be-
tween two politicians'? I'd have loved a choice be-
tween Rockefeller and McCarthy . . . And I'd like a
few other things, too. I'd like to have some say about
some controls on the Pentagon budget, and about
whether that stupid, insane SST is going to be built.
And the day I decide that scrapping my Puccis will
stop the war machine, I'll start wearing blue jeans."
"In the meantime," Wally said, "if there's ever an
award for the best-dressed political radical, Marcie
will get it!"
Marcia left to go back to her office shortly after
this, just as I was about to ask specifically how she
got her ideas across at work; but Wally explained.
"It works like this. One of the things she's supposed
to do at work is read all the papers every morning.
The Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington
Post, all the big ones— and clip anything, article or
editorial, that has any possible bearing on the copper
industry. Then she gives her boss a rundown as he has
his coffee. Well, she slips other things into that pile of
clippings. All very casually, of course.
"She'll say, in a very innocent voice, for example,
'Mr. Simms, you were talking about cost-increase
limits yesterday; I thought you might be interested in
this article . . .'
"Then she gives it to him and hits the figures. For a
Pentagon electronic system, research costs were $3
million in '67, $80 million in '68. Procurement costs
on the same system: $190 million in '67, $524
million in '68.
"Then she'll say, 'Is that sort of cost increase
typical in the military? And what are the real effects
of that? And are there any controls over that?' and so
"There was one bad scene, though, when her boss's
supervisor came in one afternoon cursing about Ful-
bright. And Marcia talked back to him, said Fulbright
was a good man. And the supervisor swallowed his
teeth and said Fulbright was too critical of the
administration, and anybody who was that dissatis-
fied should leave the country.
"And Marcie said it was impossible to leave the
U.S.; there was nowhere to go.
"And the big guy started naming, Russia, France,
Africa, England . . . And Marcia said, 'No, that won't
work. There's no other planet, and what the U.S.
does affects every country on this one. England, for
instance, is getting very upset because DDT from here
is falling in their rain.'
"And the supervisor harrumphed but didn't have an
answer for that one and just came out with the 'Love
it or leave it' line again. Then Marcie said, in that cool
little voice of hers, if you can believe it, 'That is an
idiotic statement.' And the big boss swallowed his
teeth again, and she went right on, 'If you love the
country, you've got to stay and try to make it the
best country possible, and that is exactly what Mr.
Fulbright is trying to do.'
"I guess the discussion went on for a while, but she
was kind of upset. We joked that if she got fired, we'd
write to Senator Fulbright and tell him why!
"But she wasn't fired. One of the girls told her the
next morning that after Marcie left, her boss took up
her side of the argument, against the supervisor. We
celebrated that next night; we went to Bianci and
Margarita's in the Village and toasted the partial
conversation of Mr. Simms."
("We celebrate funny things," Marcia had told me
earlier. "We may forget each other's birthdays, but
we'll go out to celebrate when the Senate passes a bill
we like. We feel, like it's our world, all of it. We're
part of it. You've got to get more excited over a
possible nuclear disaster averted than over your 25th
birthday . . .")
I wanted to know if Wally tried to do the same
"Oh, sure, I was with COM* in the Army. And sure
I try to operate the way she does at my office, too,
but with less result. See, you've got to keep in mind
that it's kind of unexpected when a girl like Marcie
starts talking politics. The shock element alone has
some value: it shocks people into shutting up until
she's said what she wants to. She really gets inside
people's heads. And I think it's great, really great."
I think that Marcia may have found something.
One of my favorite writers, Jo Coudert, has cau-
tioned against finding an "easy" job, because nothing
is more exhausting than easy work. She goes on to
point out that the only truly exhilarating work, that
* Concerned Officers' Movement.
which can turn your whole life up to 100 watts, is
work that is demanding. Look for a job, she says,
where you will be overworked, not underworked.
Take a job you don't think you can quite do; that
way you'll overreach your capacities and grow.
Well, it's not always that easy to find a job whose
requirements per se are absorbing and demanding.
But you can set yourself a demanding task in human
relationships. And that's what Marcia has done.
If you have a job where you're really doing some-
thing, like Marcia, and getting across ideas you believe
in, you can stay with it a long time.
Teaching you could stay with a long time.
I could have, anyway.
Only in teaching do you get an intimate, meaningful
contact with a broad cross section of the younger
world; the chance to guide young minds in their
growth of awareness; the excitement of probing
contemporary problems and literary themes; and
You get a few other things, too. The fun of
suddenly devoting a day to folk singing. (If you teach
English, you work this into the poetry unit; if you
teach social studies, it falls under current events; if
you teach math, you work in percentages: "What
percentage of the records played today involved
social issues? Political personalities?")
And you get to know kids. And that was surprising,
in some ways, to me. I was twenty-two when I started
teaching; and my students were fourteen. And of
course I knew what they were like. They were:
c) conversationally sophisticated
d) sexually liberated and politically aware
e) socially intelligent and turned on
f) all of these
My idea that they were politically aware and all that
was reinforced one morning and shattered that same
afternoon. Third hour, a student brought in an
internal Army memo about how the war casualty
figures should be "modified" for the press. And that
student gave a stirring speech about the implications
of that memo .
Later that day, I launched another class into
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Discussing
the evils of the 19th century that might have driven
Captain Nemo from land, someone mentioned "slav-
ery." "Well, what was so bad about slavery?" some-
body else asked.
This was an integrated classroom.
And don't ask me how I avoided a riot, because I
don't remember. But there are fast ones like that that
you have to field sometimes. And I'm convinced, by
the way, that one difference between teachers and
the rest of the population is that teachers think at a
slightly faster rate.
Usually, we have to!
It was dawning on me, about this time, that not all
teenage girls were as with it as I had thought. Some of
them seemed so confused and bewildered by how
they were treated (or ignored) by the boys that I
started a book on the subject. But more about that,
A point I'd like to make right now is that if you
teach, or if you have any job that gets you home
hours before your husband, don't spend all that time
house-working. If you do, the danger exists that by
the time your guy gets home the freshest experiences
in your mind will be Problems of Mopping or How I
Cleaned that Wall. (Is that what a man wants to hear
I will admit that there are times when things have to
be done. But get things done quickly, and that's it.
Honestly, any apartment I've ever lived in (and we
have a fairly large one now) can be cleaned in half an
hour, tops. It helps if you have a basic distaste for
housework, as I do, so you speed to finish with it;
and it also helps if you keep in mind that certain
things can always be put off. (Mopping floors, for
Do something else.
Change into something chic.
If you don't have anything chic, go shop for it.
Phone a friend.
Put on a record.
Make yourself a drink and read a book. (That's
usually what I did, when I wasn't trying to find a
reasonably priced pre-Columbian sculpture at one of
the private galleries on Charles Street, or bicycling
two miles to buy some Brie for after dinner.) We have
always subscribed to ten thousand magazines and
every book club in existence, and that is probably a
good idea. I always found that Bill enjoyed a precis of
Strawberry Statement, On the Beach, Prince of
Foxes, Feminine Plural, of Love Story along with the
hors d'oeuvres. Really, it's a good prelude to how-
Now, at one point during my teaching career, I
changed my 3—5 p.m. routine, though, because I
began that book I mentioned.
It might not have occurred to me to write it had Bill
not written two books, which I had typed and which
taught me that a non-fiction manuscript consists
mainly of examples of whatever it is you are trying to
say, examples hopefully compiled and presented in a
Even before we had any idea that book would be
published, a certain change in me pleased both of us.
I suddenly had some entirely different things to talk
about when he came home. And frankly, it was fun
to say, when he asked if I'd talked to Frank and
Irene, or read the Atlantic, "I just haven't had time to
do a thing; I've been rewriting a chapter . . ."
And because I truly hadn't had time to do anything,
we'd often end up cooking dinner together. And that
was good, too. Unless you're Julia Childs, seasoning a
marchand de vin sauce for half an hour is a little
tiresome. By yourself, anyway. But shaking stuff into
the butter, flour, stock, and wine, with your husband
there, and nibbling on the vin before you put it in the
marchand de is something else again. Try it; it's fun.
The book I was writing was published. And then
(not that I'd ever been particularly displeased with
the way we lived) everything entered a new dimen-
sion, and we were living in a way 1 really liked.
I like knowing people in different cities. I like
travel, and I like a telegram somewhere on the tour
saying, "Congratulations; your show last night was
good." I like going to department stores in Cleveland
as well as in Baltimore, and meeting young people
there. I like doing a TV show once a month or so,
even when I'm not on tour. (Last week was a cooking
show, "Parsley, Sage, Janey and Love.") I like riding
the Powell Street cable car between appointments in
San Francisco; and I like, for that matter, long
distance phone calls, even if they spell work: another
interview to do, another article revision required.
But it is worth it to me— all of it. And it is all
something I would not have if I had had children.
I'm not trying to imply that only women without
children can have interesting jobs and lives. Letty
Cottin Pogrebin wrote a book the same year I
did— and she has three children. And, while Helen
Gurley Brown, who has no children, is an example
par excellence of the successful career girl, there's an
agency president a few blocks from Helen's office:
Mary Wells. And Mary Wells has children— two, I
think. My sister, who does not plan to have a family,
works as a scientist; but in a nearby laboratory a
mother of twins is working on similar projects. I
could name parallels, also, from nearly any office.
But that's really beside the point. Though some
women with children have rewarding jobs and careers,
most do not. And of those women with children who
do not, many would— if they did not have the
A close friend of mine through high school, Sharon,
was brighter and more talented than I. She got more
writing awards, more roles in the school plays, than I
did. Sharon, though, has three children now. We met
for coffee when I was in Illinois last winter, and she is
not completely happy.
For her, the role requirements of motherhood have
extracted too high a price. She has lost the social
involvement she valued; she never had a chance for
the career she wanted. She watches me on television
shows sometimes, and she would like to be on those
shows herself. She could have been. Or she could have
easily become a reporter, as did another friend of
mine, Gail Blaisdell, a girl who is, with reason, almost
totally satisfied with her life.
Gail's job has given her an enviable range of experi-
ences. She's interviewed the McCarthy kids, political
figures, and local celebrities. She wrote a fantastic
and moving story on Vietnam war widows (after a
minor mishap; some incorrect editorial instructions
sent her to the wrong funeral, at first.)
"The exposure to the things you write about is
more exciting than the actual writing process," ac-
cording to Gail. And that's evident from hearing her
talk about some of her assignments.
Once last winter, she and a photographer left at 3
a.m. to go duck hunting on the Eastern shore of
Maryland. ("It was forty below zero; the ice on the
bay kept scraping the sides of the rowboat as we went
out to the blind. It was so cold I could barely get the
questions out. But I learned from the mayor of
Annapolis how to shoot a gun, talked politics and
told jokes with a couple of lawyers, helped retrieve
the photographer when he fell out of the blind trying
to get a shot, and TALKED REAL LOUD whenever
any ducks came around! Fortunately, nobody got
any . . .")
Another assignment: report on the only clock fac-
tory in the country where grandfather clocks are still
crafted by hand. "After a beautiful drive and some
fascinating conversations with the people in the small
town where the factory is, I rushed home. Paul fixed
dinner, since this story was a rush job. The deadline
was the next day, and I worked till 2 a.m. trying to
finish it. As Paul was driving me to the newspaper
office the next morning, though, we heard the news:
the clock factory had caught fire at midnight the
night before, just as I was writing the story! It was
almost completely destroyed ..."
Gail recently interviewed the poet Elliott Coleman;
and, when I talked to her on the phone earlier this
morning, she was involved with another sort of
project— condensing a twenty-nine-page report which
began, "Because we deal with data in the aggregate,
there are few cases posing any severe or significant
limitations on the variables we can study simultane-
ously without using up too many degrees of statistical
freedom . . ."
The report concerned urban riots. Gail was ready to
riot herself when she saw the useless verbosity that
surrounded the basic issues.
Yes, there are times when writing can be a bit of a
However, it can be an exciting mix of the people
you've interviewed, the books and articles you read as
you research. The ideas that result make it worth-
while to me.
And yet, as far as ideas are concerned, I can see an
advantage to working in a publishing house or maga-
zine office. Rather than having to think up, stew
over, and pound out the ideas themselves, you could
just be treated to the finished products, in book or
magazine form. And you'd have an advantage over,
say, the magazine reader, because you'd see the
wealth of material that, due to limited space, never
That might be even more fun than writing. It
definitely seems so, when you talk to Carole Ann
Tucker, who edits Teen magazine. She sees a lot of
ideas in her work and she channels and directs them
into one of the liveliest young-girl magazines around.
And she has fun doing it.
Carole whipped by the Beverly Hilton to pick me
up for a lunch date last spring. We weren't quite sure
who was interviewing whom. She was asking me
questions for a profile in Teen; I was interviewing her
for this book. She and her husband Jack have been
married for some time, idyllically, with no children.
After a lot of interesting talk about how she decides
what rock groups to feature and how she answers
reader questions, I commented that it was perfectly
clear how she spent her days with no children
("Actually, I have children," she said, "thousands and
thousands."), but how, for example, do you spend
She laughed. "That depends entirely on the week-
end. My job extends to the weekends once in a while.
Last Saturday, for example, Jack and I started for
Palm Springs at 6 a.m., which is dawn, because I had
to tape a TV show there. It was a gorgeous drive; we
sang every song ever written.
"Then, during the first taping, 1 saw an expression
on Jack's face that I know precedes criticism. He
began to tell me, between tapings, why and how I
should be expressing myself better. And suddenly I
said, 'Now stop right there, Jack. I don't think I want
criticism from you, and besides you're my husband,
how can you criticize me?' And he said, 'Carole, it
isn't easy, but it's necessary. Now you listen.' And he
draped his arms over my shoulders, looked me
straight in the eye make-up and proceeded to give me
"Not only was the second taping better, but so was
my understanding of our relationship. Jack was hon-
est enough to criticize me, but he cared enough to do
it lovingly . . .
"Then we spent the rest of the day leisurely driving
back, stopping here, stopping there, stopping for a
two-hour lunch, stopping to look at the ocean and
talk, talk about the other people on the show that
day, about the details of our jobs the week before,
about our plans for the next week. We spend a lot of
time planning, thinking, dreaming. We forget to talk
of the mundane. And that's why my job is important.
If you maximize your work experiences, if you give
and get from your job as much as you can, it adds to
you and your marriage. You are not mundane. That's
important; how can you expect your husband to be
fascinated by you if you're not fascinating, if you are,
instead, everyday and dull?"
A good question.
"Oh, of course I cook. But even this has to be an
adventure. We both love good food and wine. Jack
likes good solid meats (no casseroles!) and I have a
cabinet filled with spices, so I experiment. Marinades
and spices are a must. And the meats have to be
cooked slowly, so there's time for the seasonings to
be absorbed, and the flavors are fuller . . .
"And we'll talk while I'm getting dinner, usually, or
we'll read the mail we've gotten that day, and finally
sit down, with the candlelight reflecting in the wine-
glasses—yes, that's every night. There is one thing,
you see, that can never be routine: and that's ro-
mance. At least to us, it can't be. As long as it's
sparked with change and variety within ourselves, life
There's "another magazine editor, a bit older than
Carole Ann, and on the East Coast rather than in
L.A., who is also childless by choice and who also
leads an exciting life with her husband.
I can imagine that it must be a treat for David
Brown to drop in and see his wife, Helen, in her
Manhattan office. It is beautiful. Diane de Poitiers
could have simply removed the phones, tossed a
velvet pillow on the small satin sofa, and entertained
whichever of the Charleses or Henrys she was in-
volved with at the time.
Helen has evidently decorated husband David's den
with a similar sensuality. "Everything is comfortable
and sexy: there's a lot of fake leopard, which David
likes ... I fix him a drink and settle him down, like a
geisha . . . then I serve dinner. The atmosphere is
intimate. There is no one else around. We're free to
talk, laugh, explore the day, what happened, how we
felt about it, on any terms we want.
"We are not interrupted, and I want it that way.
For real intimacy, perhaps it has to be that way. I
want no one else around: no servants, no children."
Actually, along with being the single girl's guide to
romance and fun, Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopoli-
tan is also for the married, childless girl.
I read Cosmopolitan.
I have my own ideas about keeping my husband
happy, but once every few articles I pick up some
new ideas, and I suggest that you do, too.
Helen's office is a clue, for example, that Cosmo
considers surroundings important. (And so should
you.) They've got decorating ideas that are far ad-
vanced in the psychology of texture, color, and
sensuality. And Cosmo, of course, was talking about
sensuality in the sexual sense long before "J."
I suggest, for example, that we take advantage of
articles like "Thirty-two Different Ways to Kiss"—
because we can. Not every girl who has children can.
Chapters ago, we talked about image change after
childbirth: a change from "free romantic girl" to
"mother," and a change that, if it occurs, makes using
sex-kitten ideas difficult, incongruous, perhaps ridicu-
lous. (A girl I know, mother of three, tried one of the
kisses suggested. Her husband responded, "What the
hell do you think you're doing, Lois?")
But that's not our problem. We can give our
husbands those upside-down kisses. We can eyelash-
kiss, French-kiss, and kiss all the other ways suggested
by that article.
Getting back to careers for a moment, one of the
things that Helen Gurley Brown has proved is that it
is easy to blend a career with femininity.
It's far more feminine to be working in an office
than to be playing wifey-wife in your house or
apartment all day.
The reason is obvious. For femininity to be func-
tional, there has to be a man around. Your husband
isn't home during the day. (Hence the term "house-
wife.") If you stay home all day, you're married to a
house. I'm unable to see much fun in that!
But if you're out in the world, meeting people,
talking to them, having coffee with them, arguing
with them, playing politics to get a certain office
project assigned to you, going to lunch with friends,
picking up a new idea from a co-worker, interacting
with people (some of whom are men), you are
keeping your skills as a person, and as a female, very
This can't help but show in the way you are when
you meet your husband after work. All day, you've
been talked to, flirted with, looked at, appreciated,
seen. And the resulting confidence you feel inevitably
shows. And your husband responds to this, and his
response is much different than it would be if he
came home to a dull little house drudge who had
forgotten how to flirt and make conversation months
If you have a job or career, house work doesn't
seem like house drudgery, by the way. "Our apart-
ment doesn't take that much care," says Dianne
Sullivan, who works for NASA in Los Angeles, "and
I've noticed that work at home seems a hobby to me,
and I really enjoy it. When you haven't seen your
apartment all day, it. seems a marvelous place. When
you haven't had to fix Spaghetti-o's and Kool-Aid
and peanut butter sandwiches all day, fixing dinner is
a creative activity."
There's a difference in your husband's appreciation
of your housework if you have your own career. If
you're just a housewife, it's assumed that everything
is going to be polished, dusted, and perfect. It's
further assumed that you will serve a perfect dinner
and bring coffee-and-newspaper afterwards. And a
husband takes this for granted; and something taken
for granted may not mean very much.
But, if you are a girl who has a life outside the
home, that same coffee-and-newspaper service is dif-
ferent. If you play geisha to your guy, as Helen
Brown proudly says she does, it is something you
choose to do. And it means something to your man,
Ann Berman, a friend of mine here in Baltimore, is
a good example of this. She runs two boutiques
which have grown from homemade jewelry to hand-
cut English leather boots and coats and the latest
Seventh Avenue has to offer.
Speaking of Seventh Avenue, she goes there once
every few months on buying trips.
Once, on an overnight trip, she struck up a sudden
friendship with a group of designers. They all took
her out: the Ad Lib for cocktails, Serendipity for
dinner, Yellowfingers afterwards, and dancing all over
midtown Manhattan till 4 a.m.
"I didn't know whether to tell Bruce or not. As I
was getting off the train in Baltimore the next night, I
was still thinking, 'Shall I tell him? There's no reason
not to tell him. But there's no reason to tell him.
Maybe I'll tell him later; no, I don't think there's any
reason to mention it now . . .' And of course the first
thing I said after he'd kissed me was, 'Bruce, guess
what 1 did last night!'
"And it was not only all right, it was all right!
"A man, I think," she continued, "has to know his
wife is still attractive to other men. This is one reason
a wife needs to work, or she forgets what it's all
about, and then her husband forgets all about her. If
she works, she'll stay attractive, and stay interesting."
Ann will, anyway.
Staying interesting is one big reason for working,
but you don't have to walk into a magazine editor-
ship or a boutique ownership in order to be interest-
ing. Helen Brown's husband no doubt enjoys seeing
her in her lady -executive suite at Cosmo. But when I
was a receptionist, my husband liked to come by my
office and see me, too, and just talk for ten minutes
or so, see me as I directed somebody down the right
corridor. In effect, he was seeing me as other people
did, and it was not just as "his wife," but it made the
fact that I was his wife all the more special.
And a girl named Pat here in Baltimore had what
she thought was "an enjoyable but insignificant little
job" as a junior copywriter.
"But suddenly I was thrown into something quite
significant. My ad agency took on a candidate for
governor, and they transferred me to his office for
two months, where I was the advertising-public-re-
lations contact for him. / was the one who said, 'Yes,
he'll be happy to make an appearance at your Rotary
meeting Tuesday,' and 'No, there's no time for a TV
taping tomorrow; it'll have to be done over the
weekend, or next week.'
"Sounds like being a supersecretary keeping the
boss' appointments straight, doesn't it? It was. But it
was more. I've been a secretary before, in different
businesses. But the talk here was different. It was civil
rights, state taxes and voting precincts, not stock-
holders' reports and sales records. And I worked out
the press releases, then got the releases to the right
people at the right time. I got to know the newsmen,
some of whom were friends of my husband. Some
days, I'd do nothing but drive the candidate and his
wife to appointments; other days, I couldn't get free
of the phone. And I went to banquets and danced
with politicians . . .
"Oh, and there was one time (this was later, when I
was with a different agency, working for a different
candidate) when we were filming a TV commercial in
downtown Baltimore, and the City Comptroller came
up to me; we were introduced and we talked; and the
music for the TV film started; and suddenly he said
to me, 'Would you like to dance?' And so, in front of
about a thousand people, there we were, doing an
improvised polka around the Jacob France Fountain
. . . and laughing . . .
"To everybody I know," Pat added, "Hyman Press-
man is the City Watchdog, the Comptroller Terrible. I
saw him differently. In working, you get to see
unexpected glimpses of character like that; and I
value them terribly."
Of course, one could argue that if you're at home,
you get those glimpses of character, too— into other
housewife-neighbors. But that's rather limited. It is,
after all, an all-female society. To my way of think-
ing, seeing men other than the checkout boy at the
Super-M is important, plus which I think productive
and cooperative effort prompts more revealing con-
versation than koffee-klatching.
Pat proves a point we were making before, too, by
the way. A girl who helps organize banquets and run
political campaigns is more feminine and exciting
than a girl who stays home playing housekeeper. So is
a girl who addresses envelopes at a political head-
quarters, like I did. (I got to meet everybody, too.)
Most girls I talked to agreed that there is something
intrinsic to the working situation that keeps their
husbands actively interested in them. Part of what
attracts a man to a woman is a certain competitive
spirit. If you really look at it, men want women that
other men want. And if you're working, your hus-
band knows that other men are seeing and appreciat-
ing you. Result: he appreciates you more, too.
But developing your femininity, and enriching your
personality, aren't the only reasons for working.
Money counts, too, for most people, at least. The
best things in life haven't been free for some time.
Natural beauty certainly has its price these days (as
does clean air), to say nothing of food, drink, cloth-
ing, recreation, and entertainment.
You have to be free to pick up a bottle of really
fine Scotch or some really expensive groceries once in
a while, or an expensive negligee or tickets for a
hockey game or a concert, just to treat your husband
to a special evening. If you work, you have some
money of your own, and the "special evening"
doesn't have to show its price tag and dissolve into a
discussion of the budget.
Work can also guide you to use your leisure time
well. It's one thing to spend a day reading Heming-
way, Tom Wolfe, or Rollo May at home. But it just
works better, somehow, to pick up enthusiasm and
ideas about what's good, and why, from other people.
I can still recall snatches of teachers '-room conversa-
tion that turned me on to Jonathan Kozol and Tom
Wolfe: ("Death at an Early Age can't possibly be
telling the truth; there's nobody like that here . . ."
"Tom Wolfe has something new out . . ." "And
Naomi's ordered it for the library somebody told me,
and I don't think that's a good idea at all . . . It's
about Ken Kesey and literary merit aside, I just don't
think youngsters should be exposed . . ." "Well, I
think . . .")
And after reading the book in question (Electric
Kool-Aid Acid Test) I not only had my own reactions
to the book, but a lot of character-revealing reactions
of other people, too.
Picking up ideas about books, films, sports, politics,
music, dress, conservation or gardening, for that mat-
ter, is a pleasant outgrowth of being paid for a job.
And that 's a consensus of all the girls mentioned so far.
These girls, too, would support my husband's
theory that, "It's the with-it wives who go out and
have jobs and do things. Wives who stay shut up in
the suburbs are like presents from Aunt Hattie: not
too attractive; so you keep them closeted rather than
Two other good examples are Susan Root, a native
New Yorker who now works in Chicago, and Los
Angeles' Patrecia Branden. You couldn't imagine
either of these girls staying home!
Susan zings around the windy city in a small sports
car, doing all sorts of interviews for the Chicago Daily
News, and has been sent on assignment to Rome and
the Riviera. (At age 23, she covered the Cannes Film
"There seems to be nothing she can't do," accord-
ing to her husband, Clayton, who's a treasurer of
Borg -Warner as well as manager of his own business
"She wrote a story on changes in the market thai
ended up on page 1 of the financial section ..."
"When I saw that," Susan recalls, "1 realized that
maybe I knew as much about the market as most
brokers. And that scared us right out of the market!"
Many evenings, they're out: at an opening, a bene-
fit, a movie, a new revue at Second City ("Last night,
'Swine Lake' opened; it was fantastic— it satirized
everything from ballet styles to politics . . .") But
there are quiet evenings, too.
"When we're having dinner at home, I shop for
what we need, and arrive at the apartment before
Clayton. I need a bit of time— to get out of a bubble
bath and into a hostess dress— and then start dealing
with dinner. By the time Clayton comes in the door,
the music is on; the candles are lighted; the wine is
chilled; and I'm (I hope) such a picture of relaxation
that he might think I'd been home all day . . ."
Except for her conversation.
Count on it: Susan does not talk about household
minutiae over the candlelight and wine. She's had an
interesting day, and it shows.
Patrecia Branden's life is interesting, too. Seeing her
leave her husband's Sunset Boulevard offices in Los
Angeles, you might guess that she's an actress, or a
model. And you'd be right. She'll tell you though,
that she's impatient with straight fashion modeling.
"I much prefer acting; there has to be something to
say . . ."
Another part of her working life is assisting her
husband at the Institute of Biocentric Psychology,
which has as its aims marital enrichment and person-
ality enrichment through a sense of self-esteem.
The Brandens believe very strongly in the unique
values of a childless marriage, and I've indicated that
when I've quoted Nathaniel earlier in this book. What
I have not described, because I'm not sure I can do it
adequately, is the unique quality of their own marri-
age. The friend who introduced me to the Brandens
said, "If there is an argument for the childless
marriage, it is Nathaniel and Patrecia. They are
Nathaniel speaks of everything with enthusiasm, but
particularly he's proud of Patrecia. "She's the most
exciting and delightful woman 1 have ever known."
She could not live in the ordinary way. Shutting
herself off in their Beverly Hills home as a 'house-
wife,' she would miss too much.
"There are," she says, "well— I'll put it this way.
There are dramatic moments in life, when everything
stops short. There are periods of time when one lives
at a high intensity, at peak awareness. Acting is like
that; our feeling with people is like that . . ."
"For that matter," Nathaniel interrupts, "life with
Patrecia is like that."
The Brandens go out less often than the Roots; and
their evenings at home have less of a storybook
quality than Susans and Clayton's. They are more apt
to have an informal meal than one by candlelight, and
they are not inclined to night life. For no particular
reason, they do not drink. Other things are wine to
them: ideas, people, and the experiences of working
I think that's true of other childless couples— in
fact, I think that's typical of childless couples. And I
think that such an approach to life has much to
recommend it. You have to be ready to tune in to the
real world, to try to look at the kaleidoscopic shifts
of the adult personalities around you and get them to
stop, once in a while, in patterns. What you see
becomes a part of you. What you experience you
then communicate. And you do not have to be a
reporter or a model for this to be true. When I was in
Chicago, I was a secretary, not a reporter. But I went
to Second City and to a few benefit dances. And,
frankly, although I think I am an interesting person
to my husband now, I think I was just as interesting
to him when I was a receptionist. I was just as aware
of people; I just didn't write about them, that's all.
Any job or career that you might try can provide
experiences that will increase in value, that will add
to you, and that will be exciting in themselves.
There are experiences that I call "circus" experi-
ences, taking the term from an e.e. cummings poem.
In the poem I'm thinking of, cummings says some-
thing like, "damn everything but the circus . . . damn
everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking,
inward-turning . . . damn everything that won't throw
its heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of
the circus, the round world, the full existence ..."
But in order to have these experiences (sharing
coffee with a mayor in a duck blind; riding a cable car
in San Francisco between interviews; dancing around
a fountain with a conservative comptroller; seeing an
expression change and knowing it means a mind has
changed) you've got to be out in the world. You've
got to be doing something, making your mark, or
And then everything happens.
And it won't if you sit home playing housewife-
Circuses don't come to your door.
"To understand men is easy. To know and under-
stand one man can be the most difficult thing in
—A wife of one year
To know and understand, you must communicate.
And yet, most married couples don't. Not on any real
Dr. Carl Meador, Director of the Center for Studies
of the Person, La Jolla, California, says that within
the function of their jobs, and within the structure of
their homes, most couples have limited opportunity
for self-discovery and meaningful communication. Or
rather, he explains, "they see limited opportunities
for discovering and communicating themselves.
"Most couples set limits on their relationship. A
husband or wife will think, 'I want something more,
something deeper,' but will decide, 'Well, I'll settle
for this.' Their marriage is a continuous and subtle
struggle against the desire for more, in terms of
intimacy and communication, than they now have."
Hence the profusion of the intimacy-building, self-
revealing encounter groups. Hence the popularity of
communications workshops. If Dr. Meador's generali-
zation is correct, many married couples are living in a
kind of emotional prison, and they want out—into
life (significantly, one of the Center's programs is
called "To Be Alive")— and the escape route has to be
While Dr. Meador's statement undeniably applies, to
some extent, to most couples, it seems strangely
inapplicable to most childless couples I have inter-
Think back, for example, to Karen and Gary
Kramer ("We talk for hours, every evening, hours
. . .") and the way Wally was able to conclude Mar-
cia's interview, because he knew in detail what had
happened between Marcia and her supervisor.
Or remember the way Helen Gurley Brown, Susan
Root, and Patrecia Branden described their evenings
with their husbands. Or Carole Ann and Jack Tucker:
("We spend so much time planning, thinking, dream-
ing . . . there is no time, it seems, to talk of the
mundane; there is too much else, of more signifi-
cance, that we have to say . . .")
"Our second evening in London," Ann Barman
recalls, "Bruce and I didn't go out. We sat in our
hotel room and just spent the evening talking— oh, I
couldn't tell you about what. About the fact that we
were in London, and what that meant. Just being
there seemed to affect our feelings somehow. We
both felt as though we'd just been married . . ."
That description of "struggling for more" just
doesn't fit these marriages.
Communication? These couples do it. Intimacy?
They have it. It does not come automatically, though,
even for childless couples. It is easier for us, by one
thousand times, but it does not come automatically.
I know it seems, for a long time, as though every-
thing falls into place naturally. When you first meet a
guy and fall in love with him, it seems that you're
holding nothing back, that intimacy is complete, that
communicating is natural. But that is really an illu-
sion, based on novelty, the surface romanticism of
dinners out and other fun rituals and sexual attrac-
The talking you do during this time is seldom real
communication. It is far too selective. Love talk is
code phrases, verbal stimuli to spur the sexual re-
sponse. Conversationally, he is saying what will im-
press you; you are saying what will please him. You
are showing the positive facets of your personality
and past experiences, and, inasmuch as you conceal
the mundane and the unflattering, you are guilty of
some distortion. You are not really communicating
the person you are; you are projecting an image.
Such surface romanticism, obviously, cannot last.
Sustaining an illusion is pretty impossible when you
live with somebody. A while after marriage, the
illusions begin to subside, pushed out by such subtle
realities as juice cans left in the sink, towels crumpled
on the bathroom floor (or a wife who's constantly
running around tossing out the juice cans and picking
up the towels; that's infinitely worse!).
And there is a point— in most marriages, after a year
or so—when the illusions are gone. And this occurs
whether or not there are children. The difference is,
the vanished illusions can be replaced by a deeper,
real, and personal intimacy if there are no children.
(With children, on the other hand, the leisure that is
so vital to real self -disco very is hard to find.) For
childless couples, the loss of illusion we've been
talking about does not mean the loss of romance; and
it does not mean, for us, any loss of sexuality. The
surface romanticism goes; what comes next is real.
The thing is, you have to admit reality gracefully.
You can not grasp at the past or pout about "the way
things were before."
"It is a truism," says Jo Coudert in Advice from a
Failure, "that the more things change, the more they
stay the same, but it is equally accurate to reverse
this: the more things stay the same, the more they
change. For a marriage to stay the same— that is, for it
to remain the enclosure of love and delight in the
other— the people in it must be capable of growing
and finding new ways of relating to each other ... If
they cannot, the more they stay the same, and the
marriage will change, and perhaps deteriorate beyond
the point where one or both feel it is worth preserv-
ing . . ."
Why not bring "change" to a marriage or "find new
ways to relate to each other" the easy way— by having
children? Because the changes can escalate complete-
ly out of control. Because the roles of man and
woman separate. Because the social expectations for
"fathers" and "mothers" actually function to prevent
fulfillment as "man" and "woman." Because the triad
is less functional than the dyad, and, rather than
relating to each other in newer ways, the husband and
wife may find themselves relating to each other in
But I do not want you to think that, just because
you avoid the pitfalls of child-raising, your marriage
will automatically attain a state of perfection and
automatically stay there.
There will be change. And, if you accept this fact,
that change can be growth. Don't be like one silly
wife I know who went into a fit of petulance because
her husband didn't bring her roses on their six
months anniversary. That kind of clinging to the past
("But he used to bring me roses all the time!") is
reserved strictly for wives who don't care that their
roses will be sent in the future by their husband's
But if, as a wife, your life is full, if you relate to
what happens today because it is, after all, today, and
not because it is a six months anniversary, then you
may get some flowers once in a while. And you'll get
them from reasons of spontaneous feeling, and not
because of empty ritual. They will represent some-
There are several things to be done to make a
For a start, live that relationship in the present
tense. When you're first getting to know each other,
there's inevitably a lot of talking about the past (he
had two broken teeth at age six; you had two prom
dates at age sixteen) and there's something intoxicat-
ing about this continual character revelation, the
growing insights into each other's life as you glimpse
these selected vignettes from each other's back-
But stories of the past have their limits of time and
charm. The thing that's absolutely necessary is to
keep living, actively, so that you still have new
insights into yourself to offer and to share.
"The important thing to us," according to Ellen
Muir of Seattle, "isn't doing everything together, but
doing our own thing, then sharing it."
Ellen is not a wife like May Larsen, who tries to pen
her husband inside the home at all times. Larry comes
home because he wants to, not because there's a lawn
to mow, a hedge to trim, the kids to be taken to this
or that appointment.
I think it's usual for childless wives to have enough
self-confidence to allow their husbands some free-
dom. We can simply assume we are loved; we don't
need continual Fido-like fidelity and ritual roses to
"prove" it. We do not cling. Our husbands are not
driven (as so many fathers are) to constantly seek
escape. Their independent activities are based on real
interests and do not grow out of claustrophobia.
If Clayton Root had an evening business or political
meeting, Susan would never say to him, "Stay
home." And Ellen Muir wouldn't say that to her
husband when he had planned a climbing trip. (Larry
Muir is not a novice climber; with other Western
nountain enthusiasts, he'll take on an almost vertical
sheet of rock.) "I'm not saying I'm overjoyed when
he leaves on a trip," Ellen explains, "but Larry loves
the challenge of difficult climbs. He has a taste for
adventure that does not get satisfied in a scientific
laboratory. What right would I have to try to keep
While Larry is gone, Ellen doesn't sit around getting
bored. She does community work, or goes to a play
with friends. And she has a passion for reading— and
writing— excellent mystery stories.
While your husband is at a Chamber of Commerce
meeting or at an Orioles game with his boss, you
should find something to do, too— and it should be
more than your nails or the kitchen floor, as these
afford only the most limited communication when
your husband comes home. I'll have to admit that
this is a perfect time to do housework and errands,
but housework can be finished quickly, and errands
needn't be limited to the usual shop-for-food and
pick-up-laundry. Stop at a record shop or the library
and bring home a Van Cliburn to go with the lamb
roast. (Van Cliburn also goes very nicely with after-
dinner letter writing, cafe au lait, and random talk.)
Patrecia Branden gave me that idea, actually. She
brings home albums constantly, and her taste is
distinctive. ("Most of the top-selling albums we have
never heard of.") She likes romantic classical music—
Saint-Saens is a favorite— or something unusual, like
the Richard Harris/Jim Webb album, The Yard Went
Music can be a communications aid. A light-classical
lp is simple background for feelings; and something
like The Yard Went on Forever can actually prompt
feelings. When Bill and I were listening to The Yard,
we just looked at each other and couldn't discuss it
for maybe five minutes. It's a very powerful song; it
creates a world and takes you into it, whether or not
you want to go.
There is really a dual function to things you do on
your own: they add to you; and so they add to what
you have to communicate.
But we've only talked about leisure time so far.
It is also vital, to truly know someone, to share his
work experiences. As Helen Gurley Brown explains,
"The woman who works, sees, experiences, can there-
fore understand her husband's reactions to the pres-
sures and tensions of a job." Such a wife is more apt
to be a meaningful partner and one that her husband
can talk to.
I found that childless wives, particularly those with
jobs of their own, could usually tell me a great deal
about their husbands' work. A wife with children, by
contrast, had often lost touch completely. She typi-
cally gave me a one-sentence answer. Or she added
information like, "He's been with the company five
Contrast this with Carole Tucker's description of
her husband's job: (Jack is financial manager for the
publishing company that also employs Carole as
editor of Teen magazine.)
". . . Jack works with projections of advertising,
circulation, salesmen's efforts, changes in office build-
ings, operating costs, expense accounts, promotional
projects. He draws data from seventeen branch
offices, looks at everything involved in the total
financial picture of the company, projects probable
costs and makes sure they're in tine with gross income
and net profits.
"Sure, Jack talks to me about all this. And we're
constantly exchanging ideas about our work; ideas,
too, about people we both know in the company.
That can be wild, because we see people so different-
ly. Jack, being a bit reserved, sees people from ten
paces back. I eyeball them. And we can get involved
in some far-out discussions about people we both
know; what they're really like, what they really want,
are they really happy. Putting our thoughts together
makes for more understanding, and far more reward-
ing relationships than we could have singly.
"But it's impossible to talk about Jack's work
without talking about Jack. Unlike me, Jack is cool at
all times. Never does emotion override the logic of
the situation at hand. Except when there's mention
of a stock-market or commodities-market downswing,
some unforeseen company costs. Then there's a com-
plete metamorphosis. He paces, worries, wrestles with
charts and graphs . . .
"His work Ls fascinating, an entirely different world
from mine. Jack can make a graph seem interesting.
And I can appreciate what his special talents are. His
job does take talent, though of a different sort, r'm
sure some men working with the financial aspects of a
publishing company wouldn't know anything about
what the company published, wouldn't know an
editorial page from an ad page. But Jack can under-
stand the esthetics of a magazine, yet grasp both the
esthetic and practical applications. A rare combina-
What is rare is Carole's appreciation of his work.
It occurred to me after talking to Carole that
possibly the total communication within a marriage is
aided if husband and wife work closely together. I
had the same feeling hearing Lila Prager talk about
her relationship with her husband, Tom. (I've dis-
cussed them in Chapter 5.) Whereas Carole and Jack
share the same company within which they have
differing functions, Lila and Tom share the same
career field: both are psychologists. "Although our
work is important," she says, "when one of us wants
to drop it for a while, the other does, too. For
example, Tom just came up to my study cubicle last
night and said, 'Let's do something tonight. I just
can't study anymore.'
"On evenings like that, we catch a six o'clock
showing of something light, like Airport, or a Beatles
movie, and get a hamburger afterwards. Or we might
drive around the edge of town watching the sun set,
or drop in on friends for cards and coffee. Or go to
the bookstore, stock up on magazines, and take them
to the Union building to laugh over. I think this is the
most important thing about our recreation: its spon-
taneity, and the way it suits the needs of the mo-
ment . . ."
Significantly, Lila adds: "Eventually, we get around
to talking about the problem that drove one or the
other of us away from studying."
Now, with the wife-in-the-home, taking care of
babies, and the husband-outside-the-home, involved
in studies, such ideal communication just couldn't
result. Neither would appreciate the other's tasks;
neither would truly understand the other's prob-
1 want to add a word about the housework, in their
case, because housework can have a bearing on
"The housework is done by whoever feels like it.
Tom always cooks the meat, I do the vegetables and
salad. He makes the salad dressing, I do dessert. If we
have spaghetti, though, Tom makes it, because his is
brilliant. If we have anything that comes from a
recipe, I do it. He takes out the trash; I do the
ironing. Whichever one of us feels least negative
towards it cleans out the bathtub. We both straighten
things up; we take turns tossing the dishes into the
If you'll think about that a minute, you'll see why
that's ideal, as far as communication's concerned. If
your husband is in the living room and you're in the
kitchen, do you talk much? See what happens,
though, if you fix dinner together one night.
Of course, not all husbands will go for that idea, so
be subtle if you have to. Not, "Dear, I thought it
would be nice if we got dinner together tonight," but,
"Hey, help! I can't get the lid off the olives and the
cheese for the salad is too hard to put through the
If you can do this at least occasionally, you won't
lose touch with each other. And if you are in touch
with each other, it's easy to talk about whatever is on
your mind, before it gets repressed or becomes
"We always discuss with each other any little thing
that comes up," says Lila. "There's no problem there
because we're so close that anything gets discussed
naturally, as it occurs. Probably this is why we fight
so seldom. We're in such a state of complete under-
standing usually that there's nothing to fight about.
And little things that might bother us get talked out
before they have a chance to assume any large
Not every couple, of course— not even every child-
less couple— would want such complete closeness.
It wouldn't suit Paul and Gail Blaisdell. Paul has a
rather rigorous academic administration job at Johns
Hopkins University; he wants his wife involved in
something completely different. Gail is out every day,
free-lancing at a dozen different writing, photogra-
phy, and public-relations jobs (which she qualifies for
due to a lengthy stint as a newspaper reporter).
And Ann and Bruce Berman find that two separate
careers give them two views of the city: two worlds,
not one. Ann sees young Baltimore from the frenzied
perspective of her downtown boutique; Bruce
(though he's with her at the store on Saturdays) deals
with more established parts of the city in his real-
Whether you and your husband want relative close-
ness or relative separation in your work has nothing
to do with the degree of love in your marriage. It is
more a matter of job interests. In order for both
husband and wife to be in the same career field, like
the Pragers, both must be highly interested in that
field and see a lot of variety within it.
In most cases, it's probably better if we wives have
jobs and careers somewhat separate from our hus-
bands'. There will still be a basis for sharing, com-
municating with our husbands about their jobs.
It can be difficult to communicate about jobs,
because most jobs have problems. But something
happens when a vital area of life is unshared. That
"something" is emotional separation, and it starts
Most married couples get to know each other— up to
a point, a certain, clearly -defined point— and that's it.
That stopping point is the point beyond which
vulnerability or inadequacy might be exposed. And
many people feel inadequate within their field of
work. Probably the majority of men are, on their own
terms, unsuccessful in their jobs. Some degree of
dissatisfaction is the general rule. That's why many
wives, when they ask, "How was work today, dear?"
get some form of silence: a monosyllable ("Fine") or
an excuse ("Oh, I don't like to bring office problems
home with me").
This is often the first area of silence, of not sharing.
Later, there may be others.
That's why you can't accept the silence or the "I
want to leave the office at the office" excuse. Not
consistently, anyway. Silence often effectively masks
problems. But it also causes it own. If a guy gets used
to never expressing things he feels, outwardly, he may
stop defining these things to himself, inwardly. What-
ever is difficult for him to deal with is buried then,
true. But buried preoccupations, as Jo Coudert points
out, do not go underground alone. They take with
them valuable parts of the personality, depriving the
personality of richness and variety of response, and, I
might add, of general enjoyment.
This happens all the time to men in households with
children. I heard dozens of comments more or less
like the following: "Look, supposing I did want to
talk something over. In the first place, she wouldn't
understand anyway. If I tell her I lost an account,
she'd think I was trying to say I was being fired, and
we'd argue all night. But besides, who can talk about
the office or anything with Lois yelling about who hit
Tommy and where Jimmie left his bike and why were
they late getting home? Believe me, even if I come
home at six with something on my mind, who can
remember it through three hours of that commo-
But let's be honest. The same situation— a taciturn
husband— happens sometimes to those of us without
children. We have to ask ourselves why.
Perhaps we, too, lack understanding. If we, too, go
to pieces when a husband tells us about a poor client
interview, a lost account, we can't expect much in the
way of future candor about work problems. And
that, of course, means trouble. Men talk about their
problems to someone, eventually. If you want your
husband to talk about his to you, you've got to be
more supportive than critical.
And some of us who have no children may have,
from time to time, what amounts to a substitute
"child." That is, we may find ourselves involved in a
project that requires similar expenditures of time,
energy, and attention. I did not find very many
examples of this. But I can give you a very personal
one. It happened to me (ironically enough!) at one
point during the writing of this book. I was, one
evening, expounding to Bill on all that's in Chapter 7.
What a trap it all was! How much enjoyment it
prevented! "I could never spend all that time doing
laundry and changing diapers," I concluded. "No,"
Bill agreed, "you do revisions, and you change type-
That was all he had to say. I got the point; and I'm
sure you do, too. If, occasionally, you have a project
of such importance that it does pre-empt lots of your
time, catch yourself before such projects become a
Or, if our husbands are not communicating prob-
lems, it's possibly because we're still illusion-tending.
Wife is busy being Perfect Wife, Perfect Homemaker.
Husband doesn't feel like introducing real problems
into all this artificial perfection. So, Wife (Perfect
Homekaer) does dishes in the kitchen ("I must
remember to get some new barbecue tools tomorrow
and try that new dessert mix I have the cents 7 off
coupon for . . .") while husband reads and works out
his own problems ("I'll put in a request for some
extra office help and maybe we can get the monthly
report out on time; I wish Phil would quit bothering
me about it though . . .").
And that's no good.
Neither wife nor husband knows what's going on in
each other's mind, and that can be the first step down
two separate roads.
Personally, I've found that certain situations can
help stimulate talk about work problems. I've not
found any leading questions to be helpful, though. In
fact, little lead-ins like, "Gee, did something go wrong
today, dear? You look so dejected," can prompt
anything from an explosion to a denial to a clam-up
but probably not an answer to your question.
Here are some things that do help:
1) Relaxation. Some simple sensuality. (More on
this later in the chapter.) Some humor. Some
music in the house. A shoulder-rub. A shower. A
drink. If your husband does look tense and deject-
ed, don't tell him he looks tense and dejected.
Say, "You look like you could use a cold shower
and a Scotch."
2) Activity. Carole Ann and Jack play tennis twice
a week. Susan and Clayton Root bicycle along the
Chicago shoreline sometimes. Ann and Bruce Ber-
man run around Druid Park Lake ("Bruce jogs in
circles around me so that I can keep up with
him," Ann explains.) If the weather's at all good,
Bill and I are at the swimming pool. Or, try golf.
Or horseback riding. (If you don't know how,
they have people to teach you.) Surf, if you live
near an ocean and it's summer; ski, if you live in
the mountains and it's winter.
3) Conversation, from you. Rather than ask him a
question, just start talking. What happened to you
during the day, for example?
4) If you're going to ask a question, make it
specific. Not just "How was work?" but "Is
Harold back from vacation?" "Did you finish that
assignment you were working on?" "How did you
tell Phil you didn't like his reorganization idea?"
Or, start talking about something that's not even
related to work. You've read a newspaper or a
magazine or seen somebody interesting on the sub-
way today, haven't you? Or you've been shopping for
vine leaves to stuff and brown rice to stuff them with
and became instant friends with the owner of the
specialty food shop? Or talk about Dustin Hoffman,
the windows at Hecht's, the Polisfair, or politics.
Just joking around can be good. ("I'm worried
about this wine," I heard Ellen Muir say once, "it
astes like the skin stayed on the grape just slightly
oo long during the second pressing; so the wine is at
he same time too young and too old . . .")
And reminiscing can be good, especially if you're
looking back to some difficult times. Comments like,
"Do you remember when I always used to get mad
about that, not just sometimes?" is a way of pointing
out progress in a relationship.
Though this seems like small talk, and often is, it
does establish verbal contact and gets things moving.
Lots of times, "just talk" precedes real communica-
The stimulation of a new situation also helps; and
here, again, we have an advantage over wives with
kids-in-the-house. We can say, "Take me out to
dinner, OK?" or, "Could we go out and see a movie
tonight?" And, away from the usual home setting,
thought-sharing is often easier.
Communicating means sharing thoughts about
nearly everything, whether it's jobs, art, sex, tennis,
or values. And communication involves feeling as well
as words, the body as well as the mind. The self is
sensual; that's why most "encounter" or "commu-
nications" groups begin on a level of sensuality.
Unfortunately, the loss of the sensual self is com-
mon, particularly among city dwellers, and maybe
this shouldn't be very surprising. Our awareness of
our physical selves depends to some extent on the
stimulation offered by our surroundings; and city
surroundings (unless you happen to work in an art
gallery) can offer meager sensory input. There are
about ten trillion textures, for example, in your
average forest—and maybe ten in the Union Carbide
But beyond this, cities (and civilization in general, I
suppose) set up funny material values based more on
status than sensuality. In fact, the loss of sensuality
(or pleasure) can be almost directly measured by the
attention given to status (power) symbols. And the
point is, within your own home, it would be a
mistake to set up these status-y values. Status items
do not aid communication, as do things that provide
In the first place, communication at the level o
physical sensation is relaxing and enjoyable. Tall
about the taste of the fontina cheese, about the Cajun
sounds of an Exuma album, or about what you hear
during a walk at midnight. (It may occur to you that
your perceptions of sight and sound increase as your
speed of walking decreases.)
Or, if you have any interest in giving you and your
husband an "encounter group at home" experience,
begin where the encounter groups do: with the sense
Now, since the explosion of the sensitivity/com-
munications/encounter groups, there have been a lot
of books that deal, in whole or in part, with awaken-
ing the sense of touch. One of my favorites is Bernard
Gunther's Sense Relaxation. It differs from other
good books on the subject (like William Schutz's Joy)
in its wealth of specific sense-play exercises.
Many of the other books of the genre are mainly
theory. This one begins:
(those two words take up the entire page)
and then it tells you exactly what to do. Your first
assignment is to "sit straight, not rigid in a chair . . .
close your eyes and follow your thoughts for one
minute." Then you let the thoughts go and simply
concentrate on how every part of your body feels.
There are pages of exercises for stretching, lifting,
slapping, touching, falling, tapping, bending, explor-
ing all the parts of your body (would you believe two
pages on how to touch the back of the leg?) in order
to awaken every part of the body to the sense of
And (here we go!) there are exercises for the two of
you, including, in a lengthy page, some general
instructions for touching:
*let your hands take the
contour of the area to be touched
*don't move your hands or
fingers around once you have
* give you partner plenty
of time in between touches
* the touch is firm-light;
don't push down or squeeze your
* stay with what you're doing,
touching, rather than let your
mind wander elsewhere
and for being touched :
* keep your eyes closed
during the entire experience
unless instructed otherwise
* be open . . . and let the effects
of the touch move through you
* allow whatever wants to happen
* don't make anything happen or
keep anything from happening
And the actual touching exercises that follow those
general instructions are very good for you. Part of the
fun of these sense-play games with your husband is
really getting into the instructions and letting them
turn you on ("Stay alive in your hands . . .") and part
of the fun is in "allowing whatever wants to happen."
And (forgive me for beating my drum again) it's a lot
easier to let things happen and grow from these
exercises if you don't have to put the kids to bed or
check to make sure they're not tearing the pillows
By the way, although these sense-relaxation exer-
cises often lead to sexual arousal, that's not the sole
reason for them. In a marriage that already has a
healthy sexual relationship, these sensitivity exercises
serve as a simple stimulant to communication.
Because talking about sense experiences is easy
("that feels funny;" "that feels good;" "that feels like
needles, like fire") it can lead into talking about
things that are less easy to discuss.
Then, too, the ability to appreciate sense experi-
ences improves a person's emotional experiences.
Sense perceptions depend on variety and contrast.
So do emotional perceptions.
When a person can feel— in his hands— the difference
between one body surface and another, he may be
opened up enough to feel in his mind the difference
between the way he felt about you an hour ago and
And as we've implied, since sex is a part of the total
sensual self, perceptions of the sexual self increase
right along with sensuality.
Now, of course, it will be no news to you that not
all husbands are going to go for these formalized
sensitivity -training-at-home games. Not if they're
directly suggested, anyway. Of course, a book with
free and unclothed bodies illustrating its exercises
(like the Gunther book) might be halfway intriguing,
if it's just lying on the coffee table.
I simply brought the book home one night and
tossed it down as I started to get some drinks for us.
"What's this?" Bill called as he picked it up.
"Oh, I just thought it looked interesting."
He read it for a few minutes.
"Come here!" he said.
But you can increase sense awareness without books
at all. (Towel him off after his shower; ask him to put
your body lotion on you. Play barefoot games under
the coffee table as you're leafing through magazines
and the mail after dinner.) The trick is to keep your
mind alive to your body: realize what you're doing,
as you're doing it; be aware of sensations, as you're
feeling them. This applies to love-making, too, of
course; and here, too, being actively aware of what
you're feeling, and even talking or whispering about
those feelings, can add to the sensations involved and
give infinite variety to the sexual experience.
Inasmuch as these things promote physical intim-
acy, they allow you and your husband to know each
other better on a sensual level. But they do not
expand the mind and the personality in and of
themselves. Other input is needed for totally mean-
ingful communication. You need continually chang-
ing situations around you— new people, new interests.
For too many married couples, though, marriage
signals a retreat to the womb. They enter Their
House, and they Stay Put. They don't go out. "Oh,
we used to before we were married . . ."—but now
they're economizing. They're saving for the house,
the furniture, the children. By the time they acquire
the house and furniture, by the time the children
come, they can hate each other. Inwardly, each
blames the other for those deadly goals of "thrift"
that have cheated each one of a richness of experi-
ence that is the soil for emotional growth.
Don't let that happen. Get out and go interesting
places. Keep yourself open to what you see. You can
get carried away talking, just reacting to what is
around you, if there are stimulating situations around
Go to the Crack of Dawn coffee house and hear a
new singer, or to a campaign-committee meeting for a
state congressman. (Go out to dinner afterwards and
talk about folk singing and politics.) Go to a wilder-
ness-club meeting and find out about a white-water
trip by raft down the Youghiogheny River. Come
home, and, amidst the snug security of comfy throw
pillows and bubbly fondue, ask each other if you're
really the sort of people who can do that, who can
get on a raft and face a sixteen-hour trip over rocks
and rapids. Go to an out-of-town restaurant, to a
community theater play, to a night ball game, or to a
movie you don't think you'll like.
And that is the way you get to know each other, by
the way. You don't really learn much about one
another by sitting down and word-exchanging. A
person can say, "I like modern music," or "I like
films that make a social comment," and so what?
You don't really know that person's tastes until you
go with him to an experimental symphony, or to a
rerun of Medium Cool.
("Did you like that . . . ?" "Yes . . ." "Why?"
"Because . . .")
These external situations are like mirrors, in which
you see each other's views and attitudes quite clearly
And, while it undoubtedly helps if you live in New
York, you don't have to live in a large city to do all
this. Evansville, Indiana, for example, is probably
fairly typical of cities which are not New York, and
there are things to do there! Frequent art festivals
have included such events as poetry reading by Mari
Evans, folk singing by John Jacob Niles, a Black
artists' show from DuSable Museum, films ranging
from Wild Strawberries to Mr, Roberts, free concerts
at the jazz club, and trail walks.
And there are always community projects.
And there is always politics.
As a marriage grows, perhaps the most important
aid to communication is the sharing of mutual proj-
ects, whether of politics or interior decoration; but
politics is better. Sure, you can talk meaningfully
while handing each other paintbrushes; but the goal
you're working toward (a coral wall) is rather limited.
You need one that can bolster your entire sense of
self. If you both work for a political candidate, for
example, you feel personally valuable, and yet at the
same time you feel outside yourself, part of a process
larger than yourself. Propped up by all this, com-
munication-even the revealing of some real or
imagined personal fault— just does not present such a
There are seldom instant results, of course. Getting
to know someone is a slow process, and it is a risky
business. "Getting to know someone," Eldridge
Cleaver wrote in Soul on Ice, "entering that new
world, is an ultimate, irretrievable leap into the
unknown. The prospect is terrifying ... the emotions
are overwhelming. The two people are reluctant really
to strip themselves naked in front of each other,
because in doing so they make themselves vulnerable
and give enormous power over themselves, one to the
other. How often they inflict pain . . . Better to
maintain shallow, superficial affairs; that way the
scars are not too deep. No blood is hacked from the
soul . . ."
This, then, is the fear. If you know someone, you
have a certain power over him. Because if you know
him, you know what will hurt him. And we all fear
the various hurts that self-revelation makes us vulner-
able to: pity, condescension, insult.
Why bother, then? If people seem naturally to resist
communicating with each other, why bother? Why
not let it alone?
Because communication is necessary to a good
marriage, that's why. If you do not know what is in a
man's mind, then you are not really sharing his life,
nor he yours.
It's important to know what happens to each other,
day by day. Because that's life, after all: not what
happens on birthdays and anniversaries, but what
happens— what you learn and how you change— to-
day, May 12, and tomorrow. May 13. That's life. And
many couples miss it. They're so involved with fun
and games and this and that, and the bridge club and
the overtime, and the kids and the PTA, that they
truly never, never know what's going on in each
other's thinking. And you have to know. You have to
Now, if you don't go after this kind of communica-
tion, you simply will not build intimacy. And I'm
talking about all aspects of intimacy, including the
sexual. (As Dr. Meador plainly put it, "You talk
more; you make love more.")
And if you don't work for that kind of communica-
tion, the results can be rather sad. You can find
yourself inwardly busy hiding things, afraid to be
alone, afraid to be together, always needing people
around to applaud the act you're putting on. You can
find yourself very busy making up lies to yourself and
thinking up convincing ways to tell those lies. And
you can get used to that. But you can go a little bit
crazy from it.
It's better to take a chance, to say what's in your
mind, to encourage your husband to do the same.
And, if real communication has been a rarity to your
past experience or his, try some of the techniques
we've talked about to encourage the initial sharing.
(Virginia Satir would probably like to interrupt at
this point. As a noted marriage counselor and an
originator of the encounter group, and as a believer in
increased marital intimacy through communication,
she is wary of the word "technique." You can create
conditions for intimacy, for communication, she
pointed out to me. But she feels it's best not to think
of these as "techniques." Her feeling is that one can
end up making a game, with limited goals, out o'
the very serious business of communication.)
If the techniques in this chapter are used simply
get-him-to-talk ploys, they can go sour rather tha
going good. It all depends on the degree of your love
and the sincerity of your intention. Your intention
can't be merely to know what's going on out ol
wifely nosiness. It can't be to know what's going on
so you'll have ammunition for future wifely fights
and games. You have to want to know what really is
and be prepared to accept departures from the image
that you knew before.
But only when a man does reveal the self behind the
image can there be love. We can be attracted to those
who impress us, and to those who offer us something.
But we can love only those we know deeply.
There is just one thing I would add: to know a
person deeply may not mean to know that person
completely . Total communication is a goal, an ideal.
And, though it is a worthwhile goal, you shouldn't in
all cases approach it too energetically. There are some
husbands— and wives, for that matter— who are not
comfortable with the idea of complete self-revelation.
So, wait a while. If information is ripped prematurely
from the mind, it may be stillborn and valueless.
Further, in any marriage there are some problems
that simply cannot be talked out, because such
opposite points of view are held so firmly that
bitterness, and not understanding, will result.
And there are some situations it might be better to
keep to oneself. These vary with each marriage, but
one fairly general suggestion might be: keep to
yourself details of other, or previous, love affairs. I
know of one disastrous result of a California en-
counter group. Toby, a young wife, feeling pressured
by similar revelations from other couples, told in
detail about affairs she had had before her marriage.
It almost meant the breakup of her marriage, because
her husband was yet too possessive and insecure to
accept this knowledge. Her disclosure, if made at all,
should have waited until his possessiveness lessened.
But of course Toby's husband is not yours. And her
particular situation is not yours. And I suppose what
I am essentially saying is this: take these suggestions
for communication, for openness and honesty and
sharing, and temper them with your own judgment.
You are dealing, after all, with your own marriage.
And any generalizations I have made should be
modified, by you, with that in mind.
Childless couples are selfish and pleasure-seeking,
right? Found in expensive houses, cuddled on shaggy
rugs, making love and sipping champagne to Saint-
Saens, diving into private pools or basking by Lake
Michigan or the Mediterranean. Whizzing by in tiny,
just-for-two cars. Always on the way someplace— to a
film, a benefit, a spa, a ballet, a party. Seen in
airports (because we do a lot of traveling) or in shops
(because we do a lot of spending). "Girls living in the
perpetual adolescence of a Disneyland with Playboy
husbands," in the indignant opinion of one wife with
Please, that's not quite it. I hope that, in trying to
counteract some of the unfounded stereotypes of
childless couples as "barren" or "different," I have
not set up new stereotypes of sybaritic twosomes.
Barren we are definitely not. (Show me any one
hundred mothers my age, picked at random, and I
will show you ninety-nine of those hundred whose
lives are barren compared to mine.)
But neither are we selfish, sybaritic, or adolescent.
Maybe some of it seems like adolescence because we
have not committed ourselves to the usual adult
pattern of continual obligation. But there are other
We've mentioned Rex and Diane Roupe of Des
Moines before. I'd like to tell you a bit more about
them. Just by way of background, they were married
in 1957, having known each other through high
school and college. He's a lawyer; she's had several
careers and is now directing a national project for
Goodwill Industries. (She was, by the way, Iowa's
Outstanding Young Woman of 1970.)
They have no children. "It wasn't even a conscious
decision, or anything we discussed," Diane recalls.
"Our life was always so full and so varied that it was
right and natural not to have children. We've had
wonderful years, and we've both been fortunate in
being able to use our abilities to good ends.
"Right now, I'm putting together a training pro-
gram that will help those who learn occupational
skills at Goodwill. There's something very awe-inspir-
ing about helping others, about learning to appreciate
a person for what he has and can do, without
avoiding or glossing over what he does not have and
"The real courage of handicapped people who try
with all their hearts to do the simple things we take
for granted— well, this courage, when seen, has to
inspire those who see it. And it's a mutually reward-
ing alliance we want to see between the volunteers
and those who are in Goodwill's vocational programs.
"Now, the difference between what I'm doing, and
what the typical housewife-mother does, is the dif-
ference between growing wings and dusting shelves! I
suppose all work is rewarding, in its way, but I think
that housework has a built-in disadvantage: it must
always be re-done. Little is truly or permanently
changed or made better. There is a need to repeat
tasks, on a day-to-day basis, and this can lead to a
sense of frustration. Even the raising of children can
fail to be a creative task, because a wife can become
so bound to housework that she loses touch with the
"A little-known British woman, Lady Allenby,
wrote something that 1 believe holds the key to a
sense of purpose; almost a century ago, she said,
'Realize that we are all a part of the machine that is
Society, and matter less to ourselves than to the
world in general, and you and your marriage will be
"Rex and I prefer to be part of the world. When we
meet people, talk to them, exchange ideas, help
people— often things do change, permanently, because
of what we've said or done. It gives a sense of
purpose. It is an exciting thing."
"Rex and I feel very strongly, I guess, that we are
each born to do certain things on this earth and that
reproducing the species is not necessarily one of
these. The world has three billion people now. Per-
haps one billion are cared for in any way at all.
Should one bring more people into a world such as
this? Or should one try to help those already born
who need care?
"For Rex, and for me, the giving of our talents to
the community as a whole is more important. We
shall be able to say, when this life is over, 'We gave
the best of what we had to this world.' "
Rex and Diane are a departure from the hedonistic-
So is Stephanie Mills, a beautiful San Francisco girl
working one year, in a college-girl skirt and sweater,
for Planned Parenthood in Oakland; and sitting the
next year, in a plain peasant dress, at the editor's desk
of Earth Times magazine. Her commitment was heard
around the world in 1969 when, in her valedictory
address at Mills College in California, she said simply
that she would never have any children. "Commit-
ment is seldom comfortable, I guess," she told me as
we talked in her office, "and I've been subjected to
every kind of harassment . . . But regardless of how
comfortable or uncomfortable it is, it's important and
it's necessary. ['Until the so-called silent majority
wakes up and realizes that its world just might end, '
must continue to argue for childlessness,' she had sail
earlier, in an interview with Look magazine.) And it'*
exciting to see a movement growing; to toss a pebble
into the water and see the waves spread; to talk to
younger girls [she was twenty -one then] who say they
feel the same way I do . . ."
There was a phone call, and she continued.
"Some people think it's strange that I, just on my
own, could make the "no children" decision. 'You're
not married,' people say; 'how will your husband feel
"Well, girls like me simply do not marry men whose
idea of pleasure in life is driving in a station wagon
full of kids to a crowded national park to stand in
line and look at a redwood. To remain childless— well,
it's a perfectly logical decision for a single girl to
make. Kind of like a liberal chick saying she doesn't
believe in racism, and therefore can't marry a racist."
"Unless she reforms him, maybe."
"Right. Unless she reforms him."
A tall boy walked into her office— jeans, sandals,
hair . . . "I'm Mike Goodwin's brother, Jerry," he
said, Stephanie looked blank. "OK, well, forget that;
I thought somebody was going to tell you. Well,
listen, I'm a photographer, and I've been teaching
marine biology on the bay for eight years, and I've
got eight years' worth of ecological photographs, and
I— well, look, if you can use them at all, I'll bring
them in. Or if there's anything particular you want
pictures of, I'll take them ... No charge."
"Yeah, that's just the kind of thing we're looking
for. Why don't you just make some selections and
bring them in . . ."
They talked for a few minutes, and he left, just as
her phone rang and a man who looked like Jean-Paul
Belmondo walked (no, blasted) through the door
yelling, "Stef, what happened to the Cambodia
"Yeah, Bob, I'm glad you called," she was saying
into the phone as Belmondo was ravaging her desk.
"No, we do want the oil company follow-up, but it's
been pushed back to next issue . . .I'm sorry nobody
called you about it. Right; see you soon."
She and Belmondo talked for a few minutes about
Earth Times, I might explain, was a magazine of
outrage against a number of things: war, fraud in
government, fraud in advertising, pesticide poisoning,
air and water pollution, and apathy, to name a few.
Ultimately, it was defeated by that last adversary.
"Earth Times will cease publication effective with
Issue #4," read a letter that reached me just last
week. "Thank you for your support. Unfortunately,
we find that our subscriptions are not adequate to
maintain the required investment in Earth Times . . ."
Stephanie will find something else, of course. If
someone is interested in saving a bit of what's left of
the world, there are lots of places to start.
And the man she marries will be similarly commit-
ted. Stephanie Mills will marry, probably, a marine
biologist or a consumer crusader. And she and her
husband will not be a childless couple of the hedonis-
Now, I will not deny that there might be a bit of a
basis for thinking of some of us as pleasure-oriented
or hedonistic or selfish. I cannot deny that many of
us are interested in our selves, as people living a life,
in the world, and wanting to see as much of that
world, and make as much of that life, as we can.
And there can be elements of material self-indul-
gence within that attitude.
Carole Tucker has a tendency to dismiss the conven-
tional. Not for her the sparkling-type wedding ring
that, big, little, teeny or gaudy, everybody else is
showing off. Hers is antique gold, with four garnets,
rather reminiscent of a harem band and patterned
after a ring her grandmother wore: a ring she and
Jack selected together, something fine and uniquely
It might also, I suppose, be called self-indulgent.
And the Brandens, it must be admitted, live ii
Greek-modern house (with pool) overlooking Bevc
And Gail Blaisdell drives a Fiat and does not loo!
the prices on the menu when Paul takes her to din
at Tio Pepe in Baltimore or the Sans Souci
And we've mentioned Marcia and Wally befo.
"Wally urges me to be extravagant and buy thin
that are expensive and nice. He's very proud that I'
attractive to other men and loves to take me places
meet his colleagues . . ."
Marcia spends just under 100% of her salary (
That, too, is self-indulgent, I guess.
Helen Gurley Brown has Puccis, a masseur, and a
maid to cook dinner, as well as a few other luxuries I
will leave you to imagine. Ann and Bruce Berman
have a fantastic house by a lake, and they flew to
London last winter. And a Minnesota lawyer I know,
married for ten years with no children, "dates" his
wife; they live together in a fun-fun lifestyle that is
close to that typefied in Playboy magazine.
But that is not the whole story.
A more complete profile of all these couples needs
to be presented.
Carole and Jack Tucker, besides playing tennis,
enjoying fine food and wine, and driving to Palm
Springs, are devoted to a number of good causes.
Teen magazine has carried immensely valuable arti-
cles: on conservation, for example; and on the trag-
edy and beauty of today's young American Indians.
Patrecia and Nathaniel Branden work at helping
people to understand themselves; and they work
hard. Nathaniel is one of Los Angeles' busiest practic-
ing psychotherapists; and, aside from her work in the
theater, Patrecia assists him in his therapy groups.
Even on rare vacations, they are avid about finding
professional people in the area. "One of our greatest
sources of enjoyment," explains Nathaniel, "is discus-
sing various aspects of psychology and new methods
to make psychotherapy more effective."
Relevant to this is the fact that Nathaniel's book,
The Psychology of Self-Esteem , stresses the fallacy of
regarding your work as something to be paced
through so that you can enjoy yourself afterwards.
Work cannot be divorced from life. With the
Brandens, it certainly is not. Nathaniel is not joking
when he says, "Very little other than sex or music has
sufficient esthetic or emotional pull to draw us from
work or work-related activities, such as discussing our
respective careers and professional activities."
The Brandens almost embody the old saying that
true work is one with true leisure.
And our friends the Blaisdells. They are extrava-
gant. They are also altruistic. Paul recently requested
a leave of absence from Johns Hopkins in order to
work on a project dealing with the ecology of the
Chesapeake Bay. Gail has two inner-city "little
sisters." I was with her one day when we took them
on a tour of downtown. They had never seen a
fountain; they had never been in a store with an
"alligator" (escalator); and they are always hungry.
First on the agenda, on Gail's afternoons with them,
is food. But they are hungry in other ways, too. And
it is good that there is someone like Gail to help
Helen and David Brown contribute freely to conser-
vation causes. And under Helen's editorial direction
Cosmopolitan has ruled that real fur is gauche and
outre. And, in the early spring of 1969 (a full year
before / learned the word "ecology") Cosmo ran a
short fiction illustrating the devastating effects of
sulfur dioxide in the air.
Although Ann Berman might seem at first to be
simply a hip-sophisticate boutique owner (she says,
"I'd never own a car! They pollute!" and adds, "I
take cabs instead," and you have to know her to be
sure she's kidding), she and Bruce know what the
political scene is, both locally and nationally. Not
infrequently you'll see them at political benefits.
Like Ann and Bruce, Wally and Marcia have ideas
that they believe in and work for. The thought of
more Marcias to work for all the "Mr. Simmses" in
business and industry seems in itself sufficient reason
for girls to devote themselves to the office instead of
Now, let's talk about Marcia's spending for a min-
ute. I freely admit that spending nearly all your
money on clothes seems a bit unjustifiable in this
troubled world. But I would defend her doing so for
two reasons. First, I see nothing wrong with self-
indulgence if it doesn't have any negative social
consequences for anybody else. (There are, by con-
trast, brands of self-indulgence that are destructive. In
case it hasn't come across, I think that indulging
yourself with a large family is a destructive kind of
self-indulgence. But the surface materialism of fashion,
while it does nothing particularly good for the world,
doesn't really hurt anybody, either.) Second, and of
more importance: I think it's pretty obvious that
Marcia's devotion to au courant clothing is just a
phase. ("The day I decide that scrapping my Puccis
will stop the war machine, out they go.") She has
ideals, too, that will sustain her as a person long after
she passes the fashion-plate stage.
And I think that's true of most of us. If, in this
book, most of the childless couples I've interviewed
and told you about at length seem too materialistic, it
may be because most of us are still relatively young;
and our values are still emerging. And I think that, for
us, and for many others without children, real values
have a good chance of emerging. When most couples
with children vaguely realize that materialism can be
a dead end, that endlessly chic fashions and fine
wines can get boring, they have no chance to look for
something deeper. By that time, they are pulled into
a new system of status-y materialism, this time based
on the children.
Before you criticize Marcia too harshly for self-
indulgence, you have to remember that most wives
with children spend all their money and energy
within the family circle. The results, for now, are the
same in that neither Marcia nor her counterpart with
two kids is giving much in the way of money to the
total community. But Marcia will eventually, and
probably fairly soon; and that is the difference. She is
building an involvement with the total community
I haven't found that to be invariably true of
childless couples— but I've seen it often enough to
consider it typical. I'm sorry to have to limit myself
to such inexact phrases, but I did not set out to do a
There will be future studies on childless couples,
I'm sure (once people realize something exists, it is
studied; and there are going to be more and more of
us in existence), and these studies will indicate that
we are hedonistic, altruistic, optimistic, misanthropic,
liberal, conservative, today -oriented, tomorrow-ori-
ented, or whatever. And I think it will all be very
interesting. I did not have the time, funds, or statisti-
cal expertise, or I might have done a few massive
But for the time being I will just say that if one
generalization can be made about childless couples
with near-complete accuracy, it is this: we like life.
That's almost inevitable. Because, if you are childless
and you don't like your life, you can easily change
whatever it is about your life that is not satisfying.
(You can move from Toledo to New York or from
New York to the Catskills. You can throw up your
job and find something else entirely. If you are
childless, you even have the ultimate freedom: to
think it over and decide whether, or not, to have
children. For couples who already have children, the
choice is no longer there.) And, after you change
your life, you like life again, see?
And you are doing good for the world by not
having children; you can take credit for that, even if
you decide to remain childless purely for reasons of
personal advantage. Personal advantages and the
larger societal good do coincide, in this case.
So stay free. At least consider the option of child-
lessness. For the first time in history, the option is
easily yours to take. And the rewards are almost
limitless. Marital enrichment, personal independence,
and the chance to live a creative, full, and free life are
those I value most.
It seems to me that things are a bit different in April
of 1972 than they were a year ago— when the first
edition of The Baby Trap was published.
Another Earth Day has passed, with its hopefully-
heard messages of environmental problems (caused
and/or compounded by population growth).
Thousands of Americans have read of an M.l.T.
study which warns that Man cannot hope to survive if
population stabilization, and numerous environ-
mental reforms, are not effective by 1975.
Awareness of our nation's population problem has
reached the U. S. Senate— where a resolution calling
for population stabilization by voluntary means has
co-sponsors who range politically from Barry Gold-
water to George McGovern. The same awareness has
even begun to reach the high schools: the State of
Delaware, for example, has decided that pregnancy
testing is a realistic function of high school Student
Health Services. (Certainly thus decision comes none
too soon— not when 200,000 high school girls become
pregnant each year; not when, in one major city, the
first baby of 1972 was born out of wedlock to a
The Baby Trap has been followed by a very impor-
tant book written by two young psychologists, Anna
and Arnold Silverman: The Case Against Having
Children. And a book called Mothers Day Js Over
(authored by a mother of two) is in process. Perhaps
many are beginning to look realistically at the prob-
lems posed by parenthood.
There is no easy way to measure whether respect
for child-free couples is increasing meaningfully.
But— once in a while, now, when we tell new ac-
quaintances we are not going to have children, we
hear a response such as "How wonderful!"
Problems still exist.
Television, a major shaper of attitudes, still presents
us with a 3-child family, a 5-child family, and a
6-child family (all in prime evening time). Daytime
soap operas still center around pregnancies, and com-
mercials still manage to suggest that life with kids is
paradise. Some ladies' magazines are worse. And, too
often, the best-laid plans for sex-education courses
degenerate from contraception to chromosomes— and
nobody tells little fourteen and sixteen-year-old's that
Cokes don't work as douches. The question, "Why
don't you have children?" is still more socially ac-
ceptable than the question "Why do you have a
Can anything further be done to change attitudes in
our applehood-and-mother pie culture?
Many child-free couples and single persons who read
The Baby Trap last year suggested an organization to
support the rights and interests of non-parents.
Parents have, in the past, formed many coalitions.
We have the Leading Families of America (previously,
Large Families of America); there are Parent-Teacher
associations; divorced and widowed parents can join
Parents Without Partners; and there is even a special
organization for parents of twins (to name just a
Many of these groups influence legislation and
social standards and have impact on the lives of
non-parents. "Why not a special group formed for th
benefit of those who do not have children?" was th
question of many.
It seemed, to those who asked the question, that
such an organization could serve several useful pur-
1) An organization for non-parents could work to
obtain fair economic treatment for child-free
couples and single persons. Presently, those with-
out children are taxed inequitably (to the tune
of many thousands of dollars over a working
lifetime); childless wives must pay for unneeded
maternity benefits under most insurance plans;
single secretaries and bachelors help pay bills for
other peoples' children when they stay at
"Family Plan" motels, travel with an airline that
accommodates young children at no extra
charge, or see the latest film at a theater which
offers reduced rates for children. These are just a
few examples; in many other ways, the child-free
pay substantially— and inequitably— for the many
services needed to provide for a growing popula-
2) An organization for non-parents could protest
media images of the childless which are unsuit-
able, stereotyped, and inaccurate— in much the
same way that other organizations have worked
to change the image of minority groups and the
images of women.
3) Such an organization could emphasize to the
general public the creative lifestyles of child-free
couples and the great public service done by
those who do not add to our burgeoning popula-
tion and the consequent drain on our economic
and environmental resources.
4) Such an organization could cooperate with
Planned Parenthood, Zero Population Growth,
Coalition For A National Population Policy, and
other groups now working towards our most
vital national goal: a continually lowered birth
5) The simple existence of such a group should
prove mutually supportive to those who have
chosen to be childless, providing us with a new
sense of pride and undoubtedly influencing a
society which, until now, has questioned and at
times rejected those without children. The sim-
pie existence of such a group could help to make
"non-parenthood" not only a word, but an
With these goals in mind, the NATIONAL ORGAN-
IZATION FOR NON-PARENTS was formed in Janu-
ary, 1972. The initial founders were: a midwestern
financial executive (a single man), the author of this
book and her husband (a childless couple), and a
Washington psychiatrist (a father of two).
Suzanne Keller of Princeton, who has advocated
cash rewards for child-free wives to help stop "this
endless army of maternity" joined the Honorary
Board of Directors— as did Dr. Wayne Davis of the
University of Kentucky, Edward Pohlman of the
University of the Pacific, and several television and
screen favorites, including Hugh Downs.
In Palo Alto, Mrs. Shirley Radl, mother of two and
former Executive Director of Zero Population
Growth, cleared space in her home for two type-
writers, one mimeograph machine, and six volun-
teers—and offered her services as Executive Director.
As word of N.O.N, spread, inquiries and some
donations were received, even before membership
procedures had been set up. The Executive Commit-
tee began to plan publicity, formal fund-raising, an
extensive membership drive, and the creation of two
new national holidays: Non-Mother's Day, May 7
and Non-Father's Day, June 11.
Interestingly, about half of the original officers am
board members of N.O.N, are parents. This is all to
the good. We would, in fact, hope that many who are
parents will be equally interested in seeing equitable
treatment given to the 40 percent of our population
which, at any given time, is not involved in the rear-
ing of children.
Perhaps this hope will be realized.
Dr. Wayne Davis wrote, "I would be pleased to join
N.O.N. , even though the unfair tax laws are of direct
benefit to me, with my family of a wife and three
children. I am opposed to the unjust treatment of the
childless. I would rather pay my rightful share of
taxes than to have our unmarried secretary pay more
than her rightful share."
We hope that other parents will share the feelings of
Frankly, we hope that you who have read this
book, whether you are a parent or a non-parent, will
join us in seeking to secure the goals of N.O.N.
Having read The Baby Trap, it would be easy to
absorb its message and put it aside. It would be
almost as easy to return the membership blank below,
and make your involvement with the situation of the
child-free a continuing experience.
We welcome you warmly, should you join us.
National Organization For Non-Parents
Palo Alto, California 94306
I would like to join N.O.N, and be advised of your
various activities and of others in my area who are
also members. My annual membership fee of $10 is
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
ELLEN PECK's experiences as a junior high school
teacher led her to blow the cobwebs off boy-girl
relations in HOW TO GET A TEEN-AGE BOY AND
WHAT TO DO WITH HIM WHEN YOU GET HIM,
which in turn led to a widely-syndicated newspaper
column continuing her hip, no-nonsense advice to
girls on the bewildering road to maturity. Now, as her
loyal followers approach adulthood, she takes a sharp
and shocking look at the snare that society has set for
them-THE BABY TRAP. Ellen Peck lives in Balti-
more with her husband, who is a public relations
man, and zero children.
City & State
Optional Information Parent
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a baby, you
IT COULD KEEP YOU FROM
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